Now that the Big 12 seems to have secured a great new TV contract, and the Pac 10 is setting up a network, after a brief euphoria about the new conference TV deal it appears the ACC will be back back in fifth place in television earnings per school very soon.
What can the ACC do to increase it's football value and overall image in the next 12 years (the length of the contract), as well as just improving the quality of football overall?
One suggestion is to reshuffle the divisions. How about realligning divisions this way and eliminating the permanent cross-division rival:
Here are the advantages. One, you make certain games that would greatly improve the conference both in fan experience and television value every year affairs instead of twice every six year affairs. FSU coming to Atlanta once in a decade makes zero sense. I would say the same for Miami and Clemson. More importantly probably, the removal of the permanent cross division rival would mean you would play half the other division every year. So other really attractive cross-division games (UNC-Clemson, FSU-VT, Miami-UNC, etc) will happen twice every four years.
That's a huge difference in my mind, and would help to make up for losing annual games like Miami-VT and Clemson-UNC. At the VERY worst, you break even the attractiveness of annual games (I think it's better) but you pick up 50% more frequent attractive cross-division games.
Plus, by putting more natural rivals in the same division (obiously it's not perfect with Maryland in the south and Wake split from the NC schools - but they really don't matter much), that means UNC and NC State are competing for the division title, as are BC and VT, FSU and Miami, FSU and GT. I think this would GREATLY enhance fan enthusiasm and raise the stakes.
The fact is that you are dealing with a smaller inventory of compelling teams and matchups, and I think this maximizes them.
Now for the downsides.
First, you lose the possibility of FSU-Miami rematching in the championship game. I think this was fools gold all along. First of all, neither team should have to beat the other twice to win the title, that's not really fair. If we're both 11-1, and I beat you head to head, I shouldn't have to beat you again. Second, it obviously hasn't worked out that way, and it's been 10 years. Both schools appear relatively to be on their way back, but how long do you chase that at the expense of strengthening your conference. The conference shouldn't be focusing on maxing out it's two meal tickets, it should be focused on bringing everyone else up to that level.
In fact, it is better for the ACC in that scenario (both 11-1) that they NOT meet in the championship game. If the ACC is ever going to get two teams in the BCS, the chances are MUCH better to get that second BCS team in with 1 loss. If both are 11-1, or one is 12-0 and one is 11-1, how is it in the ACC's best interest to either tag a second loss on one team or wreck the national championship season of the other.
So I don't think that is a negative at all.
The other negative is balance. Historically, that would be unbalanced with more power to the South. It would be nice if it didn't have to be that way. But I think this worry is overblown (easy to say because I'm not Wake or Maryland in this scenario). Sure it makes for a little bit tougher schedule, but we're severely downgrading our OOC schedule anyway. I would propose that over enough time we'll see it balance out, or drift back and forth.
Let's say Georgia Tech takes it's lumps and can only manage to average 7-5 because the south is so brutal. Well, over in the north, UNC is riding the exact same quality team to 9-3 years. I don't think it will take that long for that to reflect in recruiting, because UNC will become more attractive to recruits than GT, eventually evening the board a little.
And I don't think being unbalanced is the end of the world. The ACC has been balanced since expansion - both divisions suck. I think the conference could do better than two middling division, by having one really strong division and one sub-par one. You'd have at least half an interesting conference, which is one half more than you have now. And the North, which has several programs (NC State, UNC, UVA) that never seem to acheive what their resources should allow, may benefit by having some room to breath and grow.
The SEC and Big 12 have both suffered imbalance over the years, and yet they regularly have placed teams in the National Title game and second teams in the BCS. In fact, I would suspect if the Big 12 hadn't been unbalanced, their suck would have permeated both divisions and drawn down the conference. The Big 12 in recent years has gotten all their big games each season, and has allowed usual also-rans like Missouri and Kansas to have great undefeated runs in a weak north and get a lot of media attention.
So while the perceived imbalance might be a slight negative to FSU, the overall gain for the ACC is think offsets it. The ACC hopefully has gotten a reality check as too how bad it's football rep has been, and how little basketball will save it. They've got about a decade to turn it around. Fixing the divisions is a great first step.
So what do you think, how do you think the divisions should be realligned, if at all?