clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opinion Week: We don’t belong in the ACC

Our ACC membership is confusing at best and detrimental at worst

ACC Championship - Clemson v Georgia Tech

I hate the ACC.

There, I said it. I say it often. There’s no reason besides desperation that Georgia Tech is an ACC member.

We are on our countdown to kickoff and I have to get this manifesto off my chest. I hate the ACC. I am also only talking about football because, let’s be honest, it’s what most people care about and makes most of the money for our athletic department. Any conveniences that we gain from other sports in the ACC are far outweighed by football program interest. I’ll even throw you a basketball bone at the end.

To go forward, we first must go back.

How did we come to join the ACC? People have written about this ad nauseam. Here’s the short version:

Georgia Tech was a founding member of the SEC and enjoyed much success in the conference that just means more. In the 50’s and 60’s, our program had so much sway that we didn’t even visit some schools in the conference and flat out refused to drive to Mississippi to play the schools that Bobby Dodd thought were beneath us.

Because of that and other reasons (such as recruiting limit violations and the Alabama punching incident), Georgia Tech abruptly left the SEC in 1964. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this was major news. GT was a powerhouse and led the conference in prestige. This is like Texas leaving the Big 12 (which almost happened ten years ago, btw).

We went independent to become “The Notre Dame of the South”. Take it from me, if your identity is just a comparison. You are going to fail spectacularly, and fail spectacularly we did. Georgia Tech began a slow death and loss of identity. Grant Field lost its status as a football cathedral and we spun towards oblivion.

That is until we were rescued by the Atlantic Coast Conference. Our Saviors! Hallelujah!

In 1978, Georgia Tech joined the ACC from the ill-fated Metro Conference (let’s not even go there) and we’ve been members ever since.

The All-Carolina Conference

This is going to be an extremely negative article but I must give the ACC props here. They have carved out two major identity traits over the years. We are in the premier academic FBS conference and the ACC does have quite the reputation for exciting basketball. These are both inherent traits of the research triangle, “Tobacco Road” in Central North Carolina.

Duke, North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest all have a reputation for academics and strong basketball programs. Their fiery rivalries are something to behold. From the outside looking in, it’s an attractive conference. Georgia Tech’s inclusion as a member only benefits them as a academic institution with football roots in a major media market.

Again, it benefits them. Not us. I have a couple arguments below to support this.

Distance

To put it bluntly, we are not close to more than half the ACC schools. One of the best aspects of college football is state rivalries. Border wars and in-state rivalries dominate the sport.

I am from a border town in NW GA on the Georgia-Alabama border and reasonably close to Tennessee. Those uga games vs Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee are spicy affairs. These “House-Divided” rivalries drive ticket, merchandising, and television revenue. People even get in fist-fights at bars over these disputes. Ask yourself, have you ever seen anyone fight over GT vs Pittsburgh??

We have a huge issue in the ACC. #1 is a convoluted division setup that doesn’t really factor distance. And #2, GT is uniquely out of range from most schools. I put together a graph comparing ACC to SEC with a couple blue bloods at the bottom. It’s a doozy so feel free to skip.

ACC members
SEC members and other Blue Bloods

I have a couple key takeaways. I don’t think I have to tell you that we are closer to most Southeastern Conference schools but I’d like to point out that only TWO schools in the entire conference are closer to Atlanta than The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). They are the farthest of both Mississippi schools that Bobby Dodd originally thought were too far to play.

Considering that, Bobby Dodd’s vision was a colossal failure. On top of that, i would say that only those two schools, Florida State and Clemson respectfully, even come close to a border state rivalry game. I’m aware that North Carolina does technically border Georgia but you wouldn’t care unless you are a GT fan from NC or currently living there. I bet there are fewer of those than GT fans from the Columbus area (Auburn) or from South Georgia (Florida schools).

Our schedule is a tough sell to recruits and a tough sell to me. How do you tell a kid that we go to Pittsburgh every other year when he could go play for any SEC school and play friends and/or enemies from nearby schools every year.

We have one blossoming rivalry from our divisional alignment, the Techmo Bowl against Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Even that has seemed weaker lately.

Identity

Besides academics, what do we have in common with the North Carolina schools? I’d argue almost nothing. They all prioritize basketball. Central NC is nothing like the complex culture of Atlanta.

I’d also like to call out that there is no conference love. Anecdotally, I think GT is the most hated school in the conference (Cut blocks). We are also kinda weird. I embrace that but GT has never been the smoothest or the coolest. UVA wears suits to games. How cool are Clemson tailgates? (Awesome, btw) and how could we ever compare to Duke’s attendance records... oh wait. That is a commonality.

In bowl games, I never ever cheer for our fellow conference members. I recall two years ago watching the Peach Bowl with my roommates. They were all cheering for Florida against Michigan despite being die-hard dwags! “Gotta support the conference”. You would never see that from us. When is the last time you heard an “ACC” chant?

Summary

Being academically linked is great. However, it doesn’t translate to the football field in the slightest. If someone can’t make grades, GT has been adding majors to cater this for years. UNC makes up fake classes! So this point has been weaker and weaker lately.

The distance is the biggest issue for me. It just inspires apathy. How weak are the conference games against Syracuse, Louisville, or even Pitt. How weak is attendance to the ACC title game in North Carolina,? Especially when it probably features a school from WAY out of state. How weak is the divisional format that has us play the SECOND CLOSEST member institution every 6 or so years?

Solutions

I love to be pessimistic. It’s in my blood and I think it’s in the identity of every Georgia Tech fan. I can’t throw out these problems without offering solutions.

The best solution is to somehow get back in the SEC. This is extremely problematic. For starters, jawja has been vocally against adding us back. The Mississippi schools are actually still mad about what we said when we left the SEC. Finally, the most common excuse for adding a school is “gaining a new media market” for greedy commissioners. We all know we aren’t the biggest draw in our own market.

The SEC makes the most sense though. We have long standing rivalries with Tennessee, Auburn, jawja, and Alabama. Did you know that Bama’s fight song specifically mentions the Yellow Jackets? Even Vandy has a trophy attached to the rivalry.

As for leaving a premier basketball conference behind, I say, who cares? Our link to the ACC hasn’t worked lately. Our program is in shambles and our membership hasn’t earned us a spot in the dance in quite some time.

If we were in another conference, the games would still be exciting. Mizzou, Florida, and even Clean Old-Fashioned Hate would still be fun. Could you imagine a good Tech basketball team playing against Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State every year?

Oh yeah, I’m gonna go there. What if the Big Ten rumors had worked out? Remember THAT?

In the far away year of 2012, before Rutgers and Maryland joined the conference. Rumors were swirling that GT had been invited to the Big Ten. I was actually excited about this. It is an academically prestigious conference with a deep football history. They gain an exciting media market and outlet for their alumni in Atlanta. Playing Ohio State (567 mi) every year makes as much sense as Pittsburgh (683 mi) or even Virginia (506 mi). Our current conference doesn’t factor distance, so if it continues to be the case that we cannot rejoin the conference we founded, the Big Ten makes more sense as a football-first conference.

A couple of solutions are non-starters for me. I believe dropping to the Big East American Athletic Conference or another Group of 5 would be a massive downgrade. We cannot sacrifice prestige for proximity. Additionally, I believe if we went independent again, we’d end up mostly playing those schools anyway (plus Notre Dame of course). That’s not to mention the money from the conference. The ACC does pay pretty well and without a decent replacement, we would be out money we already desperately need.

The last solution is most likely to happen. The ACC needs realignment badly. I understand they want regional parity in football but their original vision (FSU vs Miami every year) didn’t work at all. Plus, football programs grow and change every year. Who foresaw the rise of Clempson in 2005?

A North vs South arrangement would at least add FSU to our schedule every year and maintain some of those fierce regional rivalries in both sections of the conference. I even saw a three division setup that made sense. If I never saw Pittsburgh again, it would be too soon.

I anticipate this will be a hot comment section so let me hear it, how do you feel about the ACC?

93 days to kickoff