Ask the AD-Conference Alignment

Sept. 21, 2011

On Sunday, September 18, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced the addition of the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University as the newest members of the ACC. WakeForestSports.com sat down with Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman to talk about the expansion process, the impact on Wake Forest and its fans, and whether there will be more conference realignment in the future.

Q: What was the time frame for the decision to bring in Pittsburgh and Syracuse?

A: This round of expansion was a much faster process, at least publicly, than what we had experienced in the past. We knew that we needed to be more flexible and nimble to be in the best possible position for expansion. Therefore, we established a four-four-four committee, comprised of four athletic directors, four presidents and four faculty athletic representatives. That committee was charged with investigating all possibilities. They did a great job of coming up with the two newest members of the ACC.

Q: How does the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse benefit Wake Forest?

A: It secures the ACC, makes the ACC a stronger conference. We want to be the strongest conference competitively. We believe that we are and this secures our future. This expansion is with like-institutions. Syracuse and Pittsburgh not only have outstanding athletic programs but they both are outstanding academic institutions. They’re a great fit for the ACC. Syracuse, being private, gives us a fifth private institution. The most that any other conference has is two. We are very unique in the collegiate world. In terms of collegiality, geographic location, sports offered and national reputation, we’re honoring the ACC’s traditions with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse.

Q: Will this strengthen Wake Forest’s relationship with the other North Carolina institutions?

A:. We want to have a stronger relationship in terms of scheduling those institutions. I think all four of our institutions feel that it would be beneficial to play each other annually. As a conference, it is beneficial to have the old ‘Tobacco Road’ concept that has lost a little bit of its luster because we don’t play often enough. We’re going to do everything we can to reestablish that tradition.

Q: How will Wake Forest’s fans be impacted by the ACC expansion?

A: There will be new opportunities. It will give our fans the opportunity to travel to different locations to watch our teams. New rivalries will develop which will be fun. We have had two great football games with Syracuse. We’re going to have great rivalries with both Pitt and Syracuse in basketball. They’re two similar institutions with great basketball tradition. We’re awfully excited about what this relationship is going to produce for student-athletes and fans.

Q: How soon will Wake Forest fans see Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC?

A: They’re required to stay in the Big East for 27 months. Whether that can be negotiated remains to be seen. Pittsburgh and Syracuse would obviously like to come to the ACC as soon as possible. It probably depends on the future of the Big East. If the Big East is a viable conference without Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the conference would probably be more likely to allow them to depart. If it is not a viable conference without Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the Big East might be much more interested in keeping them for as long as possible.

Q: Will the ACC’s recent television agreement be re-negotiated?

A: We have the right to re-negotiate the contract with ESPN if we add two additional schools to the ACC. We obviously will exercise that right with ESPN. We are not going to be hurt financially by Pittsburgh and Syracuse being added to the conference. In fact, we believe that Pitt and Syracuse add considerable value to the contract.

Q: How will scheduling work in this expanded ACC?

A: In my mind, divisions are much more realistic than pods with 14 members. If you go to 16 members, pods become much more realistic. But with 14 members, divisions make more sense. The AD's will begin discussing those matters when we meet in October.

Q: Do you see college athletics condensing into four 16-team “super conferences?”

A: That is certainly a possibility. The rumors about further conference expansion in most of the BCS conferences gives credence to the possibility of eventually getting to “super-conferences”. At the same time, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that the super conference scenario will happen quickly . Nobody knows the timetable for that. There are many questions about the outcome of having super conferences. For instance, what would the governance structure be? What would be the relationship with the NCAA? Would it lead to a football playoff?...and there are many other matters that would need to be resolved if super conferences become a reality.

Q: If you go to 15 or 16 schools, what other schools might be invited into the ACC?

A: We need to keep our options open and see where other schools want to be. We know there are a number of schools that want to be in the ACC. Numerous schools have contacted us or inquired about membership. We know the ACC is a very attractive conference possibility for those schools who might be looking for options. At this point, however, 14 is a good number and we should not rush to add more schools to the ACC.

Q: Is there room for a fifth super-conference?

A: That would be 80 schools if each conference had 16 schools. At this point it seems more logical to have fewer than five super conferences if, in fact, we move to super conferences.

Q: When will all of this conference realignment be settled and everybody in the right place?

A: It could be years. Whenever there are adjustments in conference memberships, we think that will be the end of it for awhile...but then it seems that something happens within a few months that causes further realignment.

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