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September 13, 2011

ACC may be gaining steam as potential home for Texas

Sources told Orangebloods.com on Tuesday that Texas is looking more and more to the east and the Atlantic Coast Conference as a potential home if the Big 12 falls apart with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State staring down the Pac-12 and Texas A&M counting down the days until it can join the Southeastern Conference.


Here are 5 reasons why the ACC could make more sense for Texas than the Pac-12:

1. The student-athlete


If it's really and truly about the student-athlete (and we know it's not when it comes to realignment, but let's just pretend for a moment), then it makes more sense for the Longhorns to travel east for athletic competitions than west.

Student-athletes would be gaining an hour by traveling back to Austin from the Eastern Time Zone as opposed to losing one or two hours by traveling across two time zones from the west back to Austin in the Pac-12.


2. Academics

According to the new college rankings published Tuesday in U.S. News and World Report, Texas (45) would be joining a conference with schools such as Duke (10), Virginia (25), Wake Forest (25), North Carolina (29), Boston College (31), Georgia Tech (36), Miami (38), Maryland (55), Clemson (68) and Virginia Tech (71).

The lowest rated schools in the ACC, according to U.S. News and World Report, are Florida State and North Carolina State, which are tied at 101st.

In other words, more than half the ACC is ranked ahead of Texas on the list. Good company.

The Pac-12 has good academics, too, thanks to Stanford (5), Cal (21), USC (23), UCLA (25) and Washington (42). But there's a big drop-off from Washington to Colorado (94), and half the Pac-12 is ranked below 100 - Oregon (101), Arizona (124), Utah (124), Arizona State (132) and Oregon State (138).

By the way, potential Pac-16 members Oklahoma (101), Oklahoma State (132) and Texas Tech (138) would not help raise that conference's profile on the list.


3. Football and basketball

Let's call it like we see it. When it comes to college football, everyone is jockeying for second place behind the Southeastern Conference.
No one is going to claim the ACC has good or even great depth as a football conference.

In fact, it has underperformed as a conference since the league last won a national title in 1999 (Florida State).

But there's tradition. Florida State dominated in the 1990s. Miami was a force through the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s. Virginia Tech is a perennial power under Frank Beamer.

Boston College had Doug Flutie. Clemson had Danny Ford. North Carolina had Mack Brown. And Georgia Tech won that shared national title in 1990.
But while the ACC is in limbo, so, too, is the Pac-12.

Like the ACC (Miami and North Carolina), the Pac-12 now finds itself with two programs either reprimanded by the NCAA (USC) or under NCAA investigation (Oregon).

And outside of Oregon last season; USC when Pete Carroll was there; and Stanford when Jim Harbaugh was there, the Pac-12 hasn't exactly been lighting up the college football world.

But when it comes to college basketball, the ACC would rival the Big East in college basketball if the ACC were to bring in Texas or grow to 16 by possibly adding the likes of Kansas, Missouri and Baylor.


4. The non-revenue sports

The ACC has great baseball programs thanks to Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia. While the Pac-12 schools have had a lot of success in Omaha in the past, the ACC was second as a conference in RPI (just behind the SEC) and ahead of the Pac-12 - UCLA, Arizona State, USC, Stanford.

If the Big 12 ceases to exist, the ACC probably is No. 1 in women's basketball.

In other words, the non-revenue sports are strong in the ACC and provide a solid home for Texas' "other" sports.


5. The Longhorn Network

This could easily be No. 1 on the list. It's that important for Texas to hold together LHN.

It will be a bit of a sales job and will require the help of ESPN, but in all likelihood Texas can keep the Longhorn Network and its revenue ($15 million per year for 20 years) by going to the ACC, something the Pac-12 would be unwilling to consider.

The ACC is in the first year of a new, 12-year deal with ESPN, which controls the Tier 1, 2 and 3 TV rights in the ACC. And with no Big 12 left to spend money on (in all likelihood), ESPN can probably help make the Longhorn Network palatable to the ACC by giving the ACC a break-the-bank television deal with Texas on board that will blow the ACC members away.

Consider it a reward to the ACC for accepting Texas' unique revenue stream. But there would be incentive for the ACC to take Texas. The Southeastern Conference and Big Ten stand to poach schools out of the ACC if it appears the college arms race is leading to 16-team super conferences.

The ACC could help fortify its walls by adding Texas and a school like Kansas.


FINAL ANALYSIS: While everyone is asking why Texas wouldn't simply head to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech like they were about to do last summer until the 11th hour, a lot has changed that must be considered.

Texas now has the Longhorn Network, which UT's administration and regents are enamored with for a number of reasons, including a $5 million contribution to academics for the first five years of UT's 20-year deal with ESPN.

And the Pac-12 now has a series of regional networks that are not compatible with LHN. The Pac-12 also has the most restrictive "all rights in" agreement of any conference in the BCS. The Pac-12 even has the rights to its members' web sites.

Texas has been monetizing its own web site for years. So with LHN in pulling in $15 million in revenue on its own annually, for Texas to strip down LHN and share revenue with another school and the Pac-12, it would be like going from a free-market economy to socialism.

And no one at UT is looking to take a pay cut in a new conference home. If Texas is making between $30 million and $33 million per year right now in the Big 12, the Longhorns will be looking to make that same money elsewhere.

Texas is trying to convince Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to look east (ACC) - not west (Pac-12). Right now, OU is not thinking that way. Don't rule out Kansas as a possible ACC target.

It's time for Texas fans and faithful to start getting their heads around a possible move to the ACC. It's by no means a done deal. But it's looking more and more like Option No. 1 for the Longhorns if the Big 12 falls apart.

Stay tuned.


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