Saturday, March 31, 2007

Big East revels in ACC Woes

ACC having a rotten year

By Joe Starkey
Friday, March 30, 2007

The way it's getting beaten around by the Big East in football and basketball these days, the ACC might as well change its name to the Atlantic Toast Conference.

Georgetown's dramatic Elite Eight victory over North Carolina last weekend was the latest major blow the ACC has absorbed at the hands of the very conference it ransacked nearly three years ago.

Call it the Big Feast.

Here's the head-to-head tally from last football season and this basketball season, including Louisville's victory over ACC champ Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl and West Virginia's 78-73 victory over Clemson on Thursday night in the NIT title game:

Big East 20, ACC 11.

July 1 will mark the three-year anniversary of Miami and Virginia Tech joining the ACC and the two-year anniversary of Boston College's arrival, but I'm guessing the ACC will be in no mood to celebrate.

Not after a sports year in which its football championship game -- the game that was supposed to bring much gold and glory -- pitted Wake Forest against Georgia Tech in a two-thirds-full stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

Not after a sports year in which the ACC went 3-7 against the Big East in football (including two bowl losses) and 8-13 in basketball (including two NCAA Tournament losses).

Not after a sports year in which the ACC, for the first time in 25 years, placed only one basketball team in the regional semifinals and was shut out from the Final Four and the AP All-America first team.

And not after a sports year in which the once-fabled ACC basketball tournament was played in Tampa, Fla. -- hardly hoops heaven.

What in the name of Dean Smith is going on here?

Maybe it's bad karma.

The ACC executed the robbery three years ago with eyes wide open, knowing full well its actions could destroy the Big East. That didn't happen, but the move did prompt the Big East to raid Conference USA, which then raided two other conferences.

Maybe it's just bad luck.

Who knew Miami and Virginia Tech would suddenly take a downturn in football, or that Duke would have such a subpar year in basketball, including a first-round loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA Tournament?

Things don't figure to change all that much this football season.

Contrary to the dire predictions of 2004, the Big East is trending upward fast. It had three teams -- Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers -- ranked well ahead of the highest-ranked ACC team -- No. 18 Wake Forest -- in last year's final AP Top 25 and could easily do the same this season.

The Big East boasts four Heisman Trophy candidates -- Louisville's Brian Brohm, West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton and Rutgers' Ray Rice -- while the ACC might have one in Clemson's C.J. Spiller.

Funny, the rationale behind the ACC heist was to increase its membership from nine to 12 teams, thereby enabling it to stage a football title game. That was the Holy Grail. That was the game which would captivate the entire country and fill the conference coffers.

Wake Forest against Georgia Tech, anyone?

Not that the Big East is going to boast.

Whenever I've spoken with conference commissioner Mike Tranghese about issues such as the sorry state of Miami's football program, he's careful not to gloat. He knows things change quickly in college sports and that the best-laid plans often go up in smoke.

The ACC knows it, too.

Joe Starkey is a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He can be reached at


Anonymous said...

I guess the Big East was due. Through the 2003 season, they were 81-125 against ACC teams. Maybe the Big East will push for another ACC - Big East Challenge while they're hot.