Ron Wellman Column: Conference Realignment
Dec. 7, 2012
The recent addition of Louisville to the Atlantic Coast Conference will be a great benefit to the ACC and Wake Forest in a number of ways. First and foremost, the Cardinals bring a strong on-field presence to the league. Louisville earned a berth in a BCS bowl as it will play Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl next month. In basketball, the Cardinals have a storied tradition including two national championships and nine Final Fours. Louisville's facilities are excellent with Papa John's Cardinal Stadium serving as the home of the football team and the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center, which just opened last year, hosting Louisville's basketball teams. Since joining the Big East in 2005, the Cardinals have captured conference championships in baseball, men's basketball, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, men's soccer, women's soccer, tennis, track and volleyball.
Undoubtedly, Louisville will be a strong opponent as the Cardinals replace Maryland in the Atlantic Division. With the addition of Syracuse to the Atlantic Division as well, our division in the ACC will be stronger from top to bottom than at any previous time in league history.
Conference realignment has been in full swing for over two years now, starting with Nebraska and Colorado leaving the Big XII Conference. More than 40 Division I schools have changed conferences in the last 30 months. The ACC has been very proactive in adding Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame while losing Maryland. Each of those institutions coming into the ACC bring competitive value.
Whether conference realignment is over or not is difficult to predict. Many ACC fans want to know whether the ACC will survive when realignment finally concludes. To answer that, it's important to look at the responses from several members who have recently been rumored to be considering a departure from the ACC.
North Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham answered a recent inquiry about leaving the ACC with this response: "Carolina is a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and we believe the ACC is the finest conference in the nation. The ACC has been our home for nearly 60 years and we want it to be our home for another 60 years at least."
Virginia AD Craig Littlepage recently told the media "The ACC's commitment to its members and their student-athletes is the finest in the country. We look forward to continuing this relationship far into the future. Our goal is to continue supporting the ACC and its initiatives for long-term success."
And Georgia Tech president G.P. "Bud" Peterson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last weekend that "We're not going anywhere. We're happy in the ACC. We're staying."
Nobody knows for sure when realignment will end. What we do know is that realignment has been around since the start of intercollegiate athletics and will continue to be a factor. League shifts, such as the Pac-8 bringing in Arizona and Arizona State in 1978, created less of an uproar and perhaps that is because this current realignment has been more wide spread rather than limited to a single league.
For the time being, the Atlantic Coast Conference is set to move forward into the playoff-era of college football with a solid line-up of 14 schools. Should further shifts occur in conference membership, I am confident in the ACC's ability to maintain its position among the top conferences in the country.