AJ's Monday Musings

Big East basketball surpassed the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1985 when it became the first league to place three teams in the Final Four.

The exclamation mark on its superiority was that Big East clubs, three in regional finals, ousted all five ACC teams in the NCAA tournament.

N.C. State fell to Chris Mullen and St. John's in the West Region final; North Carolina was limited to 44 points by eventual champion Villanova in the Southeast Region championship; and Georgia Tech lost to Georgetown in the East Region title game. Maryland lost to Villanova in the Sweet 16 scoring just 43 points, and Duke was eliminated by Boston College in the second round.

The ACC was clearly smarting as the Big East was on top of the college landscape. Once not too concerned with the relatively new league, ACC fans developed a dislike for the mostly northeastern conference. By Final Four weekend that spring it had turned into utter hatred, and the basketball rivalry between the leagues intensified.

Now we fast-forward 18 years and the ACC is trying to lure a trio of Big East schools into its own family. Miami, Boston College and Syracuse could join before the end of the summer but won't participate as league members until at least the fall of 2004.

Miami wasn't in the Big East in 1985, but B.C. and Syracuse were. The Doug Flutie miracle (ironically against Miami) charmed enough people that B.C. was a few notches down the angst order. But Syracuse trailed only Georgetown, as few ACC fans could stomach watching Jim Boeheim whine to the officials and Pearl Washington dazzle opponents. Heck, even independent Miami was quickly becoming the most hated football program in the nation, an honor the Hurricanes seemingly cherished under Jimmy Johnson.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford, however, is now asking ACC fans, who generally root for their own in the NCAA tournament and bowl games, to welcome the 'Cuse, the Eagles and the 'Canes into their hearts. If the league is going to retain its charm you must develop "relationships" with players from these three schools like you have in the past with the likes of Charles Davis, Mark Price, Bryant Stith, Chris Corchiani, George Lynch, Grant Hill, Matt Harpring, Boomer Esiason, Chris Slade, Charlie Ward and Joe Hamilton.

A red-clad season-ticket holder at the RBC Center will be expected to be keen on a Syracuse hoopster? A Ramblin' Wrecker is supposed to warm up to some B.C. linebacker? Is a solid senior from a school in Massachusetts losing on Thursday night of the ACC tournament supposed to get a warm ovation from the Charlotte Coliseum crowd when he exits with seconds remaining in his career? Will a diehard ACC football fan leave work early to catch the 4:30 p.m. kickoff of the Old Navy/Maxwell House/Ruby Tuesday/Century 21/WeirdAlYankovicGear.com/Jack LaLanne Juice Man Rodeo Bowl in Bozeman, Mont., between Syracuse and the WAC's No. 5 representative, Rice?

Expanding the ACC is one thing, but going not just north, but WAAAAY up north into vastly different college sports cultures is a mistake. Add a couple of schools that were high-ranking members of ACC fans' deck of "Most Disliked" cards and it is downright nonsensical.

C'mon, don't memories of that chant "Lets go Orange (substitute any Big East school there) , lets go Orange " return that pit in your gut?

Miami won't have much of a problem, but I think it will be very difficult for ACC fans to accept B.C. and Syracuse into the league. Just a hunch, but an Orangemen-Eagles matchup in the ACC hoops tourney in Greensboro or Charlotte will draw a smallish crowd, just like a B.C.-Miami football title game in Charlotte, Atlanta or Baltimore.

This week's question is: Will you diehard ACC fans ever fully accept B.C. and Syracuse as ACC teams like you have the current nine schools? And if you do, will you ever root for them in the postseason? Turn back the clock seven weeks, would you pull for Carmelo Anthony over Roy Williams?

I will select a few answers to post in next week's Musings. Please send e-mails to totlsprts@aol.com.

READER RESPONSE

Last week I asked you about possible expansion and how you saw the ACC in 2007 if it doesn't expand. Here are a few of the responses I received:

Gaines Townsend, Wilmington, N.C., '81

Now for what happens because of a LACK of expansion. I think that's a moot point, personally, because the conference is going to grow; it's just a matter of who besides Miami, and how fast. Miami's presence will singularly solve the "itchings" of FSU, and will give Ga. Tech and Clemson a new, major challenge, thus quelling any outward looks those schools might have by 2007. Va. Tech would add to that challenge, and would cement some regional rivalry (Clemson, for instance, has played VPI frequently in recent years). Any of the three Northern schools under consideration would break new ground, and Syracuse or Pitt would bring large universities with strong teams in both major sports.

At any rate, it's going to be interesting, indeed, as to the way this play will unfold over the next few months!

Barbara Beard, Atlanta

I'm in total agreement with you. Adding Miami is one thing, but adding two others at this point is jeopardizing basketball in unexplored territory concerning how much more money will be made. I say let's take it one step at a time. I also agree on who to add, such as VA Tech and possibly USC. We are a Southern conference and should keep it that way. Good article.

Tony Hilton, Landis, N.C., '69

The Germans were into "expansion" in the 1930's and 1940's. They based their expansion goals on the ideas of a Scottish geographer named Halford J. Mackinder. Briefly Mackinder's theories are summarized here:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
Who rules the heartland commands the World Island;
Who rules the World Island commands the World (Mackinder, 1919).

We all know what happened to the Germans and their expansionist policies.

ACC Commissioner, John D. Swofford is our Mackinder and his ideas of expansion will be just as disastrous as those of the discredited geographer. We can equate Tobacco Road to Mackinder's "Heartland" and the "World Island" to the rest of the east coast. The rub comes when you try to "command the world" as Swofford seems to want to do. Hitler wanted a bigger piece of the world, too. All the other competing conferences won't knuckle under to an expanded ACC. They're going to fight for what's theirs and take any territory they can. In the end all we will have now will be in ruins.

The ACC is the envy of the collegiate sports world and we should not covet other conferences as they do us. FSU is the only school that has a legitimate chance to bolt to another conference but Clemson and Georgia Tech are stuck with us as we are with them. If we are truly interested in a competitive and compact ACC, forget Miami and get South Carolina back in. Geographically and athletically they are more akin to us than they are to the SEC.

Yes, that's right, with rare exception we are NOT a football conference. Nor do we have to be one to succeed as a conference economically, athletically or morally. We've certainly proven that fact. South Carolina got out because we wouldn't lower entry requirements for a basketball player and they remained an independent for years. If we must expand, then forget Miami and call the 'Cocks. Then we can abolish the annual Clemson/FSU Memorial Play In Game at the ACC tournament.

Remember, expansionist theories didn't work for the Germans any more than they will for the ACC.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: totlsprts@aol.com.

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