When the ACC first announced the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the decision was met with skepticism and questions about the ACC’s direction. While other conferences were shoring up their football divisions – Big Ten adding Nebraska, SEC adding Texas A&M, Big 12 adding West Virginia and TCU – the Atlantic Coast Conference was adding two basketball schools that finished a combined 11-14 in football last season.
Neither school has won the Big East since 2004 when Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and Boston College all tied atop the division with identical 4-2 conference records. Pittsburgh, as the highest ranked team in the BCS standings, went on to the Fiesta Bowl where they were destroyed 35-7 by Alex Smith, Urban Meyer and the Utah Utes.
While Pittsburgh isn’t a football powerhouse – at least not in the last twenty years – they’re still a team full of tradition and countless notable alumni. Many greats have gone through Pittsburgh including Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Bill Fralic, Mike Ditka, Hugh Green and even Mark May. Yes, that annoying guy that yells back-and-forth with Lou Holtz is a former Pittsburgh Panther, and a pretty good one at that.
Let’s also look at the Atlantic Coast Conference while we’re at it. At this point, the conference isn’t exactly spitting out Top 25 teams at a high rate. There are two teams – Florida State and Clemson –playing at a high level right now. There are others like North Carolina and Miami that give the conference hope for the future. That is, after they get away from their collective scandals and bowl ban(s). North Carolina State is inconsistent, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have completely fallen apart, Maryland is starting a linebacker at quarterback and Duke is Duke.
You could see some big changes forthcoming in the conference and there could be a lot of team rebuilding under new staffs. There are more than a few underachieving head coaches feeling their seats getting warmer as the weeks progress. NC State’s Tom O’Brien, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and even Maryland’s Randy Edsall could be on the chopping block.
While I expect a couple coaches to be given another chance, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least two of those schools were hiring new head coaches in a few months. It’s the nature of the business.
So, while Pittsburgh doesn’t add the importance or prestige that a full-member Notre Dame would, they’re still an upgrade over the football we’re currently seeing in the conference. And hey, they’re not bad for basketball either.