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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ACC Realignment: Academics and Jocks

The last few years have seen a lot of moving and shaking in the major college football conferences.  Conferences that were once based on and named for geographical locations have added teams from parts previously unknown.  This is especially true in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  With all the changes in conference membership, I propose that the ACC embrace the true identity of their member schools and divide into the "Academic" and "Jock" divisions.

First, a little background.

In order to accommodate their growth (and adhere to NCAA rules) the ACC divided into two divisions for football in 2005.  Those divisions were named the "Atlantic" and the "Coastal."  Since those words mean basically the same thing, even from the outset it was very difficult to remember which teams were in which division.  That has gotten even more difficult over the last two years due to continued expansion and the departure of Maryland for the Big Ten.

Heading into the 2014 football season, here is how the ACC divisions are currently arranged:

Finding a pattern in that arrangement is much like taking an inkblot test.  Theoretically, this arrangement is based on competitive balance.  But, that's very shortsighted.  As Auburn proved from 2012 to 2013, success on the field can swing drastically from one season to another.

For this reason, geographic realignment would make much more sense than the current arrangement.  If you split the conference into a North division and a South division, here is how things would break down:

That arrangement would be fairly easy to remember, and the competitive balance is very similar to the current arrangement.  But, with the Civil War still fresh in the minds of a lot of people in ACC country, this split could be hard to swallow.  I doubt that any fans in Virginia or North Carolina want to be associated with anything called the "North."  So, that's a problem.

Another option would be to divide the ACC into Big East and Non-Big East divisions.  After all, six of the ACC's fourteen members for 2014 were formerly in the Big East.  Throw FSU, a non-traditional ACC member, into the Big East division and you'd have seven teams for each division.  Here's how that would look:

Again, easy to remember and fairly balanced.  But, as long as we're talking about realignment in the ACC, why not consider something totally novel?

Every conference has schools with varying academic reputation, but the academic and cultural divide might be greater in the ACC than in any other conference.  Some of the schools in the ACC are truly elite academic institutions.  Others, not so much.

I propose that the ACC schools just embrace their true identities and divide the conference into the "Academic" and "Jock" divisions.  When I first came up with this idea, I had a gut feeling about which schools belonged in which divisions.  But, I decided that this can't be just a Banshee Sports judgement call.  There really ought to be a method.

A lot of time and energy went into choosing the factors for this formula.  The overall academic prowess of the school was factored in.  The NCAA's graduation success rate of all the athletic programs at the school was considered.  The Princeton Review's rankings for "jock" and "party" schools was also scored.  The final factor was the number of academic all-american football players from the school since the year 2000.

After everything was totaled up, here is the divisional breakdown:

I realize that there might be some hurt feelings here, but you can't argue with science.  The complete spreadsheet and a detailed explanation of the formula is available for scrutiny.

Duke, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are certainly not surprises to wind up in the Academic division.  Likewise, Virginia Tech, Florida State and NC State are naturals for the Jock division.  The placement of Miami in the Academic division might raise a few eyebrows, but it's been a long time since the Dennis Erickson era, and the U has a strong academic reputation overall.

The most controversial divisional placement is undoubtedly North Carolina being placed in the Jock division.  UVA and UNC actually tied on the score sheet.  But, since it's gradually becoming clear that books might actually be banned from the athletic facilities in Chapel Hill, UNC simply could not be legitimately placed in the Academic division.

Sure, dividing a conference into Academic and Jock divisions is a bit radical.  But, ten years ago, the idea of Syracuse and Pitt in the ACC was equally radical.  If we are going to have change, it might as well be big change.

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