With ACC expansion movement seemingly at a standstill between the “football schools” and the “basketball/academic schools,” it doesn’t look like the league is set to add UConn or Louisville any time soon. So of course, a new name — this time from the Big East‘s future ranks — has entered the fray: Navy (source: @ACCSports).
Currently slated to start playing football in the Big East for 2015, the U.S. Naval Academy delivers at least a portion of the Baltimore/Maryland market the ACC loses with Maryland‘s defection to the Big Ten in 2014. But most importantly, it adds yet another reason for Notre Dame to come on-board for all sports. The Irish and Midshipmen already play one another every year in football, and it’s a major priority for both schools to keep it going. If Navy joined the ACC, that would then give Notre Dame six games against league competition every year (if they weren’t simply worked into the rotation). The ACC only plays eight conference games. At that point, what’s really stopping the Fighting Irish from adding two more contests and just joining full-time? It’s understood that they value their independence, but do six in-conference games really fit that designation? While the league is happy with their Notre Dame partnership as-is (and the school is too, especially given their success this year), it can’t hurt to nudge them a little closer to a full membership, can it?
Additionally, what would happen to Navy? If ND finally comes on as a full member of the ACC, then no big deal to have Navy just play football, while the league adds another all-sports member (UConn or Louisville to fill the 16th spot). But if Notre Dame remains independent, things start to get unwieldy (and rather Big East-like). You’d have Notre Dame playing Olympic sports and a partial football schedule, while Navy would only play football, without Olympic sports (beyond lacrosse, they wouldn’t stand much of a chance in the ACC). Those other sports could likely remain in the Patriot League, but what if they push for full membership?
Obviously, this is all still at the conjecture stage, and there’s plenty more to do before the ACC adds another school. Personally, I don’t see any value in adding Navy without some sort of guarantee that Notre Dame’s coming aboard for football, but is that wrong? And if the Irish held out, does that still leave the door open for Louisville and/or UConn?
As realignment has shown us over and over (that’s right, the Big East is really adding Tulane and ECU), there’s no easy way to predict what will happen next. The ACC doesn’t have to worry about Big East expansion directly, but it needs to keep an eye on the growing league’s dissatisfied membership. With basketball and all-sports members clawing for ways out, it’s only a matter of time before the Big 12 finds an offer it can’t refuse. As I’ve said before, Louisville is the key to Big 12 expansion. It’s time the ACC cut them off at that pass and started looking out for its football future a bit more.