Conference realignment is here and there’s nothing fans of traditional college sports can do about it. Without blowing things out of proportion, we’re going to analyze Virginia’s place in the latest rumors that some ACC teams could be seeking a path to the SEC.
While nothing is confirmed, it seems that anything is possible in this age of collegiate athletics. So it doesn’t hurt to break down the reasons why UVA moving to the SEC could happen as well as the more likely reasons why it won’t happen.
why it could happen
It goes against the stated principles of college athletics, but money dominates everything. It’s the reason a conference with as rich a history as the ACC is teetering on the edge of collapse. The conference simply cannot keep up with the SEC or the Big Ten in terms of revenue generated by football. So, the member institutions of the ACC are left with a choice: stay in the crumbling ACC as it potentially gets left behind in the new world of conference realignment or find a way to join one of the new superconferences and ensure financial viability for their respective athletic departments. If an invitation comes to join the SEC, Virginia would be silly not to take it.
Anything can happen
Many reactions to the rumors as they pertained to UVA were questions as to why the football powerhouse conference that is the SEC would be interested in taking in Virginia and its mediocre football program. It does seem implausible that a conference that boasts the last three college football national champions (and 11 of the last 15) would want a UVA football program that has not won its own conference in over 25 years.
With that being said, anything can happen. A year ago, it seemed impossible that Texas and Oklahoma, the flagship programs of the Big 12, would leave the conference in favor of the SEC. But it happened. The news that west coast powers USC and UCLA could join the Big Ten, a conference centered in the Mid West, was met with ardent disbelief, until the move was finalized in less than a day. Thus begun the bidding war between the Big Ten and the SEC for the nation’s most valuable college athletics programs.
That is why we must seriously consider rumors and unsubstantiated reports, like the one from SwimSwam’s Braden Keith. Now that the idea of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, and Clemson joining the SEC has been proposed, would it really be all that surprising if it actually happened?
Expanding the SEC’s market
Although Virginia is not nearly up to the standard of many of the football programs in the SEC, bringing UVA into the SEC fold would help the conference towards its goal of expanding its market. That explains why the SEC is interested in schools like North Carolina and Virginia, two states not currently represented by the SEC’s member institutions. Putting Virginia in the SEC instantly captures viewership markets in the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially northern Virginia, and the Washington DC area. If the SEC and the Big Ten are drafting brands that can increase television revenue, UVA could be a valuable asset.
Why it won’t happen
Grant of rights agreement
In 2016, the ACC and ESPN agreed to a 20-year media deal, which includes a grant of rights agreement, which means that any TV revenue an ACC school earns is the property of the Atlantic Coast Conference through 2036. That agreement essentially holds the schools in the ACC until 2036, unless the conference is completely dissolved or the contract is voided by ESPN. This one contract is the main obstacle preventing any member school from departing the ACC for the next 15 years.
UVA Board of Visitors
Scroll to Continue
Historically, the UVA athletics department has fought a severe uphill battle against the University of Virginia Board of Visitors to make significant commitments to support the school’s athletic endeavors. Breaking ground on a much-needed new football facility was the culmination of years of hard work convincing the BOV that such a massive financial investment in sports was worth the cost and the risk. Making a move to the SEC will require the Board of Visitors to prioritize athletics over academics, an extremely rare occurrence at the University of Virginia. If the SEC does come calling and athletic director Carla Williams wants to make the move, the Board of Visitors could potentially prevent that from happening.
Lack of a “fit” in the SEC
From a holistic perspective of the UVA athletics programs and academic profile, Virginia does not fit well in the SEC, which does have several of UVA’s Olympic sports – rowing, wrestling, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. That is a serious problem. Those programs account for 19 of Virginia’s 31 team NCAA national championships: rowing (2), men’s soccer (7), men’s lacrosse (7), women’s lacrosse (3).
That is why a move to the Big Ten actually makes more sense for Virginia than a move to the SEC. The Big Ten sponsors all of UVA’s athletics teams and would also be a better fit from an academic standpoint. But once again, if a school is jumping ship in the ACC due to financial considerations, that school is going to take the best offer available. An invitation to the college football promised land of the SEC is going to be hard to turn down if it comes.
As we said in the open, no details regarding these rumors have been confirmed and the only people who really know what is actually being considered at this moment are those inside the athletics departments at the various schools, the offices of the conferences, and ESPN headquarters. . Ideally, the Atlantic Coast Conference would continue in its current state in perpetuity and Virginia would not have to go anywhere. But at this point, we just don’t know. If and when concrete information is made available, we’ll have it for you at CavaliersNow.
See more Virginia football news and content: Virginia Football on Sports Illustrated
See more Virginia sports news and content: Virginia Cavaliers on Sports Illustrated
Read more from Cavaliers Now
Virginia Quarterback Records Brennan Armstrong Can Break This Season
Casey Saucke and Jay Woolfolk Named D1Baseball Freshman All-Americans
Three-Star Quarterback Anthony Colandrea Commits to Virginia Football
Virginia Basketball Target Milan Momcilovic Nearing Commitment Decision
Virginia Men’s Lacrosse Announces No. 1-Ranked 2022 Signing Class
WATCH: Chris Long Reacts to Rumors of Virginia Potentially Joining the SEC
Virginia Basketball Adds Two Opponents to 2022-2023 Non-Conference Schedule