Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Exclamation Point on a Decade of Epic Failure: the ACC Raid

Last night, West Virginia University scored 70 points and routed the hapless 10-3 Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. As usual, ESPN pundits predicted a blowout for the 3 point favorite Tigers. As usual, national voting heavily picked against WVU. As usual, on college football's biggest stage, West Virginia brought its best game of the year and won.

This was not just a football game. A decade ago, the Atlantic Coast Conference launched a bid to overtake the Southeastern Conference to become college football's premiere league. As we all know, they plundered the Big East, carrying off Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College. Added to Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson, this should have grown into a formidable conference.

It didn't.

Virginia Tech stayed at the same level, winning about 9 games per season and dominating in conference. Meanwhile, they posted inexplicable losses against teams like James Madison in conference championship years. Clemson had rarely risen above second tier status, usually starting fast and wilting after the changing of the leaves. Georgia Tech disappeared, only to re-emerge as a vintage 1950s option team. Florida State followed Bobby Bowden into genteel decline. Miami found itself in scandal, again. And Boston College, well, most people forgot they even existed.

The ACC's new behemoth lineup produced no undefeated seasons, embarassingly low turnouts for its vaunted championship game, and a 2-13 record in BCS games.

West Virginia alone racked up three BCS bowl victories in the same span.

The Big East over the past decade performed respectably well in all bowl games, doing respectably well in the BCS. No one will mistake it for the SEC, but its performance shows resilience in the face of near destruction.

Last year the ACC once again came calling. With the near certainty of West Virginia departing somewhere, Syracuse and Pitt took the last bus out of the conference. The ACC did not deign to offer West Virginia the chance to turn them down.

That led up to the Orange Bowl. West Virginia, at one point a spurned team in a ridiculed conference, exposed completely the failure of the ACC. They wanted to knock the SEC off its pedestal, but have only seen that conference evolve into a league that makes the championship game its own little party. Clearly the ACC raid has ended in perfect failure.

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