What Bad Blood Will Brew With ACC Expansion?


Last week in New York City, the Atlantic Coast Conference officially rolled out the red carpet and welcomed Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame bringing the total number of teams to 15. Maryland will not officially leave the conference until July 1, 2014. With the loss of the Terps, the ACC not only loses one of their charter members but also two, fierce intra-conference rivalries that they enjoy with Duke and neighboring Virginia in basketball and football respectively. So what can we expect in the form of rivalry and drama from the new kids on the block?

Aside from perhaps Pitt/Notre Dame football, there are no preexisting “rivalries” between any of the older ACC schools and the additions. But since Notre Dame will not be joining the ACC in football, it’s a moot point. I suppose the Flailing Irish want to continue making their own schedule, go undefeated by playing inferior opponents and make fools of themselves in National Championship games. But I digress.

Jul 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA; (L to R) Former Pitt Panthers football all-american Larry Fitzgerald, Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, ACC commissioner John Swofford, Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, NASDAQ senior vice president Bob McCooey, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey and mascots during the NASDAQ stock market closing bell ceremony after the ACC press conference at the NASDAQ Marketsite. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, everyone is going to be gunning for Syracuse in basketball simply because of its winning tradition, but other than that, there are no love/hate relationships among the schools. Before pondering what might crop up, let’s look at the factors that constitute a good old-fashioned, hate-filled, spit in your face, steal your mascot, cut down your tree rivalries.

  1. The Geographic Factor

Everyone knows that one of the reasons that UNC/Duke and UNC/NC State are such heated rivalries is because they are all less than 30 miles apart. But, I doubt geography will be a factor in new ACC rivalries as the closest existing ACC school to Syracuse is Boston College, and Virginia in Charlottesville is the closest preexisting ACC campus to Pittsburgh and South Bend.  So, unless the Orange can pretend they are the Yankees and the Eagles are the Red Sox, proximity as a sole factor is unlikely to spawn new rivalries.

2. Tradition-Rich Programs

Whether officially or not, every time UNC plays Kansas or Kentucky in basketball, there is always a heightened element of competition. I would include UCLA in this conversation if they had been consistently good since the Wooden era and weren’t on the West Coast. There are just some schools whose programs are so historic and steeped in tradition that you cannot help but want to beat them and beat them badly every time you play them. And this is where I expect at least one, intense basketball rivalry to crop up because of expansion.

I predict that Duke/Syracuse basketball will quickly become one of the hottest tickets in New York state when the Devils come into the Carrier Dome. Why Duke and not UNC? Let’s face it, like Syracuse, Duke is and always will be a northeastern, private university that just happens to be located in Durham, NC. And because Coach K has always considered Madison Square Garden his home away from home while Boeheim has enjoyed success there during Big East Tournaments. Add to the equation the fact that Boeheim is 2nd behind Coach K in all-time wins, and you have the perfect recipe for vehement vitriol.

While I expect UNC and Syracuse to be competitive and have some hard fought battles, I don’t expect their games to be as hateful and intense simply because of Coach Williams’ demeanor whereas I have always considered Boeheim to be Coach K’s doppelganger. The more interesting question regarding UNC and Syracuse is, “Who will MJ be rooting for?” He is of course a UNC graduate, but his money and his daughter go to Syracuse where Jasmine Jordan is a student.

3. Bad Call/Bloodshed  

Nothing incites a fan base more than poor officiating or a call that blows the game. Sometimes the best rivalries are the ones we cannot predict. They just sort of come about by themselves. Let’s say it’s October 12, 2013 and the Panthers are in Blacksburg, VA taking on Virginia Tech. The Hokies are up 17-14 but the Panthers are threatening in the red zone at 3rd and 5. Quarterback draws back to throw and the ball is knocked out of his hands clearly while in a forward throwing motion. Yet, it is ruled a fumble on the field. This is obviously hypothetical, but you catch my drift. Pitt fans leave pissed and a brawl ensues outside of Lane Stadium. Bam! You have a rivalry. In a similar fashion, a few months later down in Coral Gables, an errant, Hurricane elbow bloodies the nose of the Irish’s starting point guard. Bam! You have a rivalry.

We at Keeping It Heel would love to hear your opinion who will might become new rivals in the ACC! Please feel free to comment.