MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

College football began in earnest Labor Day weekend with Week 1 of the 2023 season (Two weeks ago when games were played and the season actually began was referred to as Week 0 in case you were wondering or cared).

So, naturally, the big news of the weekend hit the streets on Friday morning, one day before most of the games were even played, as the Atlantic Coast Conference convinced North Carolina State to change its vote so it could take the determined leap of desperation to add Pacific 12 schools Stanford and California, and Southern Methodist University of the American Athletic Conference.

The addition of the schools, which takes effect in 2024, gives the ACC presence in Texas and California, two of the largest states in the country, which is good, and will bring the number of teams in the conference to 18, giving the ACC super-conference status. For the time being …

We say a leap of desperation because the ACC felt a need to add new units (as they say in the car business) to protect itself from losing money in its little-brother television deal with ESPN should the number of its teams drop below 15, as by all appearances, the Big 12, which has had itself a summer, seemed to be in the driver’s seat to add Stanford, Cal and SMU based on geography and its TV deal with ESPN, which is a better one than the ACC’s.

As it turns out, SMU, which has countless filthy-rich donors who love nothing more than spending money on the Mustangs (see “Pony Excess” ESPN 30 for 30), had previously offered to buy its way into the Pac-12 and the Big 12, but were denied on both fronts. The question then is if both a failing and a stable conference didn’t want to take SMU and its money, what is the wisdom of the ACC taking them? Why would they do it?

Well, for beginners, Stanford and California had a mighty powerful ally in Notre Dame, which is a full-voting member of the ACC even though the Irish will not commit to being a full conference member, which means football, so it can keep its exclusive TV deal with NBC. Notre Dame lobbied and lobbied hard for expansion, particularly for Stanford.

Clemson, whose president has made noise recently about his school’s unhappiness with the conference’s TV-deal payout, was always a “No” against expansion. Florida State, who has made the same noises of discontent that Clemson has made, as well as North Carolina and NC State had been “No” votes on expansion from the beginning.

Yahoo Sports reported North Carolina and Florida State considered flipping once they saw the new payouts for adding the new schools at little or essentially no cost, but ended up sticking with Clemson. NC State, though, did flip its vote to give expansion the needed number, which indicates State doesn’t feel it will have a spot in either the Big Ten or the Southeast Conference when the ACC eventually folds, which it eventually will.

That the final vote was not a unanimous vote is a pretty strong indicator that the ACC is on shaky ground and is close to cracking. In a strong conference, the losing side changes its final votes for the appearance of conference harmony and stability. That wasn’t the case in this instance, as it will be the losing side – Clemson, Florida State and Carolina – that will be the first to leave the ACC and, again, how funny is it that one of the two former dictators of the conference will be among the first of the next wave to leave?

For the winners (in a figurative sense here), adding Stanford, Cal and SMU is nothing but insurance for ACC survival when Dooms Day eventually comes

Paul Finebaum, for years the voice of the SEC and Southern football, said on his radio show, “There is such a fissure right now in the ACC.

“I just want to congratulate the ACC for essentially voting out Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State because after what happened Friday with the admission of SMU, Cal and Stanford they have essentially given those three a ticket out. That league, which was already teetering towards irrelevancy, has just taken on three schools that devalue an already discounted product even more and that league is just heading towards the iceberg.”

Of course, Paul Finebaum is paid handsomely by ESPN himself — perhaps more handsomely than is the ACC.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT