Last Friday the SEC and Big 12 announced a new bowl partnership.
The Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences have announced a five-year agreement for their football champions to meet in a postseason bowl game following the 2014 season.
The champions of the two conferences will be in the matchup unless one or both are selected to play in the new four-team model to determine the national championship. Should that occur, another deserving team from the conference(s) would be selected for the game.
On the surface it looks innocent enough. It's highly unlikely that both the SEC and Big 12 champions will be left out any realistic four-team playoff model. So it's a potential blockbuster bowl who's best matchups will probably only be played on Xboxes and PS3s. However, what's more important is that the Big 12 and SEC are holding hands, and kissing on each other in public. Not only that, but this is their game that's going to fetch free market value. It's innovative, and sexy. Until now, those were types of PDA reserved only for the Pac-12 and B1G (Rose Bowl). Now all four of these conferences have a postseason contingency plan if any of their champions are left out of the playoff, as well as the most attractive non-playoff pairings.
The SEC, Big 12, B1G, and Pac-12 are asserting themselves, building an exclusive and lucrative framework around the future of the sport. The ACC is trying to stay the course, while the Big East is hanging on for life.
John Swofford tried to ensure the future of his league when he poached Syracuse and Pitt. His play crippled the Big East, ironically the only conference left for the ACC to dance with, and maybe someday the move will deliver Notre Dame to the ACC. In the now, did it strengthen his league? It put an extra $4M a year in each school's pockets, but that deal doesn't come close to competiting with the four "power" conferences, and it's not enough to stop Florida State from looking elsewhere. It may very well ensure the ACC's survival, but not as a major player. The league is filler to spackle around the week wherever ESPN sees a hole in its programming. Hooray for Friday night football, Labor Day bonanza, noon kickoffs, bowls in December, and "premier content to numerous ESPN multimedia platforms" like those not available on cable television. True Value Hardware in Bristol must have ran out of DAP. Regardless of how the ACC got here —mismanagement, lack of national success, minimal football support from the majority of its members— this is how it currently stacks up.
So where does this all leave Virginia Tech?
The ACC is not without its merits. Most of Tech's away games are driveable from Blacksburg, Northern Virginia and Charlotte. There's a familiarity with opponents. There are academic partnerships with prestigious universities. It's a great league for all sports1. Tech's been uber successful here. All are great benefits, but are they worth staying behind the curve for?
Will the ACC provide the Hokies with their best opportunity to play for a national championship? A four-team playoff; four power conferences and their commissioners blazing the trail not with the ACC's best interests in mind.
"I really can't believe I'm saying this," one Big 12 school source said. "We might be moving to four superconferences -- and the Big 12 would be one of those."
If superconferences are the future, and Tech is invited to be a part of one, would an athletic department keen on family values, and football program that's stressed consistency be able to leave their home of almost ten years?
If not, Virginia Tech may become a second-class citizen in college football's new pecking order.
1 This is outside the scope of this piece, but at the end of the day football is king.