Dec 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; A sign promoting the Louisville Cardinals

Should Georgia Tech Consider Changing Conferences?


Conference-jumping. It used to be a not-so-common thing. Teams played in the conferences that were in direct relationship to their geographic location. The last time Georgia Tech decided to jump ship and move to another conference was when they left the SEC in 1963. Could it be time for another such move?

Most recently, there has been a huge turnover in both the ACC and the former Big East, which is now divided into a new football conference (the American Athletic Conference) as well as two basketball conferences – the “new” Big East (or Catholic Seven as it came to be known), and the AAC.

Maryland and Rutgers have bolted for the Big Ten, and Pittsburgh and Syracuse joined Boston College, who moved to the ACC in 2005, and are now part of that conference. Louisville will be joining their ranks next season, and will make the competition in the ACC even tougher.

Boise State can’t seem to make up their minds where they want to go. And let’s not forget those “southeastern” teams like Missouri and Texas A&M who decided to trade in their western and midwestern twangs for a southern drawl.

Even the formerly staunch “we’re independent and we’ll stay that way” Notre Dame Fighting Irish caved in and have joined the ACC as a basketball conference.

It’s a a topsy-turvy world in college athletics, and the conferences who can offer the biggest paydays and the most perks for the players are luring schools to join their ranks and beef up their profile. Even with paying exit penalties, many of these schools do significantly better financially than in their old conferences.

The accounting departments and respective boards of regents love it. The fans…well, mostly they are confused.

No…they hate it.

Now the question begs, would it be financially beneficial (and feasible) for Georgia Tech to find a new conference home that provides a more remunerative windfall financially, as well as exposure for the players themselves. It would seem a strange question to ask, given that the most recent national football champions–Florida State–is a member of the ACC.

The rumors have hovered and swirled around Georgia Tech (among other teams) abandoning the ACC and finding greener pastures (or field turf) for years. As recently as 2012, there were stories about the Yellow Jackets joining Virginia in an exodus to the Big Ten. Of course, it was all just speculation and/or fodder started by unhappy alumni and fans, but it made for some fun reading.

But with the conference expanding, and with talk of changing the scheduling format to include eight conference teams, it could possibly spell an end to many regular non-conference rivalries, as has happened in other conferences.

For those who aren’t sure what that last sentence meant, the ‘Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate’ rivalry with Georgia could go the way of Texas-Texas A&M and Missouri-Kansas. Poof…wiped off the schedule like it was grease-marker scribbles. Nobody, but nobody wants that.

Right now the exit fee to leave the ACC stands at $20 million (there was a vote to increase it to $50 million in 2012 that was defeated). That in itself is probably reason enough to keep the Jackets firmly in place. When you add in the fact that Tech is still paying Paul Hewitt not to coach the men’s basketball team, and the possibility of having to pay a buyout to Paul Johnson should things seriously falter at Bobby Dodd stadium this fall, and it seems nearly an impossibility.

Or, does it?

Last year the ACC averaged about $16.9 million paid out to each team in the conference, which ranked third behind the SEC ($20.4 million) and the B1G ($24.7 million). However, both of those conferences have extremely lucrative media packages, including the SEC Network which is due to launch this year. The estimates are that in 2014, the SEC will payout over $30 million per team.

So would that kind of increase in payout, as well as a chance at more exposure on the Big Ten or SEC Network, make the money paid to the ACC to leave the conference worth it?

In my estimation…no. The ACC has seen steady and marked increases in its payouts to teams, with the $16.9 million per school during the 2011-12 school year representing a jump of nearly 38 percent from the 2010-11 payout number of $12.3 million a school. With the newest additions to the conference, that figure should increase even more for the 2012-13 school year.

While it may seem tempting to follow the growing number of lemmings who are mindlessly migrating towards the giant payday, it’s good to remember that slow & steady often wins the race. Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski didn’t just fall off the back of the turnip truck, and he can surely see that this conference is headed upward.

As for the question of scheduling, it’s probably a given that the conference will have to undergo some realignment, and once that is complete, then the task of figuring out how best to schedule these teams can be put to paper. The most recent proposal is for each team to play eight conference games, and one game against an SEC opponent.

I think Georgia Tech’s SEC opponent is pretty  much predetermined if that comes to fruition.

Bottom line, it’s probably best for the Yellow Jackets to stay put and continue to help build on what has been going on in the conference for the past few seasons. The conference is growing stronger in all revenue generating sports, and to abandon now would be short-sighted.

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Tags: ACC Basketball Football Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets