If you thought the days of conference realignment were over after the ACC’s raid of the Big East a few years back, think again.
I have learned from a source close to league offices that the SEC and ACC have reached a preliminary agreement to do the unprecedented: exchange member schools. Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be going to the ACC’s Atlantic Division, while Clemson and Florida State will join the SEC East.
On the surface, it makes sense.
Clemson and Florida State are football schools and will fit right in with the SEC’s culture. Adding them in place of two of the conference’s weaker football programs helps ensure the SEC’s status as the top league for the sport. Those two also now unite with in-state rivals South Carolina and Florida, which allows all four of them more flexibility in non-conference scheduling.
As an added bonus, Clemson and FSU are closer to the other member schools than the comparatively remote Vandy and Kentucky. That could help both the 10 existing members and the two new ones save on travel costs, a big plus in the current economic environment.
The ACC is reportedly interested in Vanderbilt for its academics and proximity to the large Nashville metropolitan area. Adding Kentucky gives the conference another power with which to battle the Big East for basketball supremacy.
There has been no decision finalized yet on whether the SEC will try to renegotiate its contract with ESPN as a result of the move. Right now it appears the conference will wait until the economy improves to ask for more money, though that could change in the coming weeks.
As college sports become more and more of a business, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other moves taking place. Off the top of my head, I’d say Boston College going back to the Big East with South Florida going to the ACC at the very least makes sense geographically.
Obviously this is big news and we won’t know the full ramifications for years. It will be fascinating to monitor the situation over the next few weeks as more details emerge.