Let the conference cannibalization commence!
On the same day reports emerged that the presidents of Texas and Oklahoma would be given permission by their respective Board of Regents to explore the schools’ conference affiliation, another report has surfaced regarding conference expansion that doesn’t involve UT, OU, the Big 12 or Pac-12.
Citing a person with direct knowledge of the talks, Pete Thamel of the New York Times is reporting that current Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse are currently engaged in discussions with the ACC about a possible move to that conference. Thamel writes that the source “declined to speculate on a timetable or the seriousness of the discussions.”
Of course, the ACC raiding the Big East isn’t exactly a novel concept; early last decade, Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech all bolted the latter for the former.
Officials from neither the schools nor the ACC would confirm or deny the report.
“We’ve been dealing with the fluidity of the conference landscape on multiple levels for a week,” ACC associate commissioner for public relations and marketing Amy Yakola told the Times, “and at this point we wouldn’t be able to comment on speculation.”
In the past few days, the ACC has suddenly — and perhaps unexpectedly — jumped to a crowded forefront of conference expansion discussion, thanks in large part to the speculation that the league has held talks with Texas regarding a possible move from the Big 12. As with the rumored Syracuse/Pitt talks, UT and the ACC have reportedly only held informal discussions about future membership, although that may have changed since it was first reported earlier this week.
As for the impact two schools leaving the Big East would have on the conference, it’s way to early to speculate that it would join the Big 12 on life support, although losing those schools in particular would certainly appear on the surface to be a significant blow.
What this does signal, however, is that the move to four, 16-member “superconferences” is most certainly under consideration and is an option on the table, with the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC likely to survive the seismic shift of the collegiate landscape when all of the dust settles. If that shift comes, obviously. The signs, tea leaves and everything else, though, are decidedly pointing in that direction.
UPDATED 8:27 a.m. ET: The Associated Press writes that “Mike Finn, the ACC’s associate commissioner for football communications, told The [AP] late Friday night he was unaware of any such talks and didn’t know anything about the Times report.”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Pittsburgh officials would not comment on the report.
UPDATED 9:13 a.m. ET: A source with knowledge of the ACC’s thinking has confirmed to CFT that the conference has held informal talks “with multiple schools” to ensure the league is prepared if/when there is a move to 16-member superconferences. The source refused to confirm — or deny, it should be noted — that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are two of those schools.
“The next step, the first step (toward superconferences) is up to (Pac-12 commissioner Larry) Scott,” the source. And, by extension, Oklahoma and Texas as well, with that likely coming to a head for both schools Monday at the regents meeting.