Discussion of this topic may be coming about two weeks too late, but with Texas A&M's jump to the SEC made official and rumors of Missouri and West Virginia's interest in the SEC still mulling about, it still seems pertinent. Expansion seems unavoidable at this time as conferences and television stations (ESPN) are trolling the waters for more exposure and more money. Previously, I was against expansion. The conferences, as they were, made sense. The ACC took care of the Atlantic Coast, the Big East the Northeast, the PAC-10 the Pacific Coast, and the SEC existed as the newest incarnation of the Confederacy. But then all hell broke loose when A&M went to the SEC, Baylor started suing everybody in sight, Oklahoma started looking west, and ACC Commissioner John Swofford came out of nowhere and made the ACC the first super-conference.
I hoped two things during the latest round of conference expansion. First, was that John Swofford was doing everything he could to keep the ACC intact and second, was that Gene DeFillipo was making sure Boston College was going to be in the best position it possibly could. As it turned out, both of these things happened. Gene is a member of the "444" committee begun by John Swofford to consult about the shifts in college sports, specifically expansion. The 444 committee is an organization of four university presidents, four athletic directors, and four faculty representatives from each of the ACC schools. Certainly, any decision regarding conference expansion would have been made only after consulting with the 444 committee. By making the move to add Pitt and Syracuse, Swofford ensured the survival of the ACC as conference expansion continues (which it most assuredly will). Gene, for his part, almost certainly was privy to knowledge about the expansion, if not actively involved in the decision making process. Through the efforts of Swofford and of Gene, BC remains in a strong position in the conference it wants to keep as its home.
Pitt and Syracuse shifts the focus of the conference north. BC no longer remains as the lone northern outpost of the ACC. The teams also bring football programs with strong traditions to the conference and although irrelevant in recent years, Pitt has consistently posted winning seasons over the last decade. Syracuse, though certainly not what it once was, is resurgent under the leadership of Doug Marrone and brings with it a strong history of excellence on the football field. I think I am most excited to continually play Syracuse. I was excited last year when the series was renewed and now look forward to playing them in conference each year. BC vs. Syracuse has the potential to become a great rivalry again and Gene has said publicly he would like to see it become a Thanksgiving game. The opportunity to play Pitt each year will also give BC exposure in western Pennsylvania which could help in future recruiting.
The one fear I have about the addition is the shakeup it could have for the current Atlantic and Coastal Divisions. For one, I like the way the divisions are set up and the current form of inter-division scheduling, allowing for one cross division rival. Ideally, Syracuse would be added to the Atlantic and Pitt to the Coastal maintaining the current division formats. What I expect to occur, however, is that Wake or NC State will move to the Coastal with the other Carolina schools and Pitt and Syracuse will be added to the Atlantic.
Swofford's move to add Pitt and Syracuse was a great move for the ACC. The addition of two great programs, in the north, will make the ACC stronger in the long run and will give BC two neighbors north of the Mason- Dixon. Most important though, is the stability Pitt and Syracuse will give the ACC as conference expansion continues. With 14 teams and arguably the best basketball conference in the nation, the ACC will most assuredly have a seat at the table as college football moves towards super conferences. For BC, this will allow us to remain in the conference that we want to keep as our home as we begin to assert ourselves more on the national stage in football and basketball.