College Football

Giglio: Money, ratings rule the bloated ACC

Rick Pitino's words, while bitter, ring true

Staff WriterSeptember 29, 2011 

  • What do Pittsburgh and Syracuse add to the ACC's football ledger? Here's how the 14 schools have fared since the start of the 2000 season (records through Saturday's games):

    Team

    W-L

    Conf. titles

    bowls

    Virginia Tech

    114-35

    4

    11

    Miami

    100-41

    4#

    11

    FSU

    97-50

    4

    11

    Boston College

    96-49

    1*

    11

    Georgia Tech

    91-55

    1

    11

    Clemson

    89-54

    0

    10

    Pitt

    84-56

    2*

    8

    Maryland

    81-58

    1

    7

    N.C. State

    76-57

    0

    7

    Virginia

    71-69

    0

    6

    Wake Forest

    66-70

    1

    4

    UNC

    63-74

    0

    5

    Syracuse

    57-79

    0

    3

    Duke

    24-108

    0

    0

    Note: # Miami won the Big East title in 2000, '01, '02 and shared it in '03; * Pitt shared the Big East title in '04 (with three teams, including Boston College) and '10 (with two teams).

Leave it to Rick Pitino, a basketball coach from another conference, to boil down the ACC's seemingly football-centric expansion to its essence.

Adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse makes the ACC better in basketball, at the Big East's expense, the Louisville coach surmised on Monday on his blog (the aptly named rickpitino.com).

But in football, what's the supposed reason to go to 14 teams, other than to avoid an exit by Florida State?

Allow Pitino, who admittedly has a bone to pick because it was his conference that lost the teams, to answer, via his blog (Presumably it was written by him; otherwise, an intern has been fired):

"...(Y)ou can't tell me that Pitt and Syracuse are making ACC football significantly better. In the last few years, they have laid off more football staff coaches than Bank of America did with its employees last week."

Pitino's punchline may be an exaggeration, which even he admitted. But Pitt has had three head football coaches since October of last year, and his incredulity concerning Pitt and Syracuse making ACC football significantly better rings true.

In Syracuse, the ACC is essentially adding the Big East's version of Duke -- a private school with mass appeal in the New York Tri-State area, that has an excellent basketball program but a less-than-stellar football one, at least since 2000.

Syracuse has a rich football tradition, with the 1959 AP national title to its credit and the production of legendary running backs Jim Brown, Floyd Little and Ernie Davis. But its football program is also 57-79 since the calendar hit 2000. That's the worst record among current Big East teams and ranks 13th among the 14 teams in the new ACC (albeit 33 wins better than Duke).

Third-year coach Doug Marrone has the Orange headed in the right direction after going 8-5 last year. This season, Syracuse is off to a 3-1 start, including a win over Wake Forest, but is he going to win the ACC in the next 10 years? It's unlikely.

In Pitt, the ACC gets the type of football program bowl executives loathe -- a college team in a pro city (see Miami, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland) -- but a top-10 basketball program.

On the football field, Pitt has been closer to Maryland, Clemson and N.C. State since 2000. In hoops, to Pitino's point, the Panthers operate in Duke and UNC's tax bracket.

Pitt's 84-56 record in football since the start of the '00 season would place them seventh in the new ACC -- seventh out of 14 being the mathematical definition of mediocrity. Of the many things the ACC needs, another mediocre football program is not one.

But if there was anything to be learned from this century's previous wave of expansion (when Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004 and BC a year later), it's that you don't measure the value of new teams in terms of their on-field success but by your league's access to new television markets. On that front, the ACC wins again by adding the greater New York area and at least western Pennsylvania.

The addition of Miami has been an unqualified disaster (see booster Nevin Shapiro, former coach Larry Coker, the ashy remains of Orange Bowl Stadium and the football program, the Hurricanes' small and indifferent fan base) on every front except for television appeal.

And college expansion is nothing more than a money grab based on TV dollars, at the expense of its unpaid labor force. It's a bottom-line business -- the NCAA, the conferences and all the schools are classified as non-profits for tax purposes -- and the bottom line has boomed.

The ACC's television contract is worth a reported $155 million, which has more than doubled the annual revenue stream to each ACC member compared to the previous contract.

Miami's name-brand value, however faded, still pulls ratings, and the ACC is betting the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh will do the same.

And if it helps restore the conference's basketball reputation? That's an ancillary benefit everyone in Greensboro should embrace, even if it means admitting Pitino is right.

Giglio: 919-829-8938; jgiglio@newsobserver.com

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