12/20/12 — What's the ACC's next move?

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What's the ACC's next move?

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 20, 2012 1:47 PM

The sport that serves as the glue that bonds every conference together may ultimately prove to be the Atlantic Coast Conference's undoing.

Last week's announcement by the Big East Conference's seven Catholic schools of their intentions to leave the league should serve notice to the ACC that long-term stability no longer exists.

The Big East, a pillar in college athletics since it began playing basketball in 1979, has been ripped at the seams by conference realignment -- more specifically, by football.

Gone from the league are Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville to the ACC. Rutgers is headed for the Big Ten and West Virginia is now a member of the Big 12. Notre Dame is leaving to join the ACC as a non-football member and the Fighting Irish are considering making the move earlier than 2015, which was the previously agreed upon date.

Temple becomes a full member of the Big East next season. Boise State and San Diego State are scheduled to join the Big East as football-only members in 2013. Houston, SMU, Memphis and UCF are set to become full Big East members next season.

Tulane and East Carolina are joining as football-only members in 2014 and Navy comes aboard as a football-only school in 2015.

The Big East is already losing relevance under the current BCS system used to determine college football's national champion. Under the new four-team playoff system, which takes affect in 2014, the league would be nothing more than an afterthought.

What does this all mean for the ACC?

It is long been believed that Florida State and Clemson are coveted commodities with rumors swirling about both the Big 12 and the SEC expressing various levels of interest. As recently as May, the head of Florida State's board of trustees was quoted as saying to Warchant.com, "On behalf of The Board of Trustees I can unanimously say we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer."

Virginia Tech along with other current members of the ACC are believed to be possible targets of the SEC should another round of conference realignment take shape. Like the Big East, the ACC could quickly find itself dwindling in importance as it pertains to college football's postseason.

Institutions such as North Carolina, N.C. State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and Miami -- all who have goals of maintaining their football relevance nationally -- would have difficult decisions to make. Meanwhile Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College and Virginia -- schools who experience moderate football success -- could be left clinging to what remains of the ACC.

These potential changes could be years away or the dominoes may begin to fall in the coming months. At this point "when" seems to be more relevant than "if."

For those followers of the ACC who doubt the conference they know and love could ever experience significant transition, ask fans of the Big East how denial worked for them.