On Sunday, my Twitter feed went nuts over this Boston Globe story on the recent ACC expansion. At the time, I wasn't willing to wade through whatever registration process awaited me to find out how mad Boston College and Connecticut were at one another, but since the story has begun popping up elsewhere, I figured I'd take a look.
It's one of the more incoherent things I seen written.
It begins with the theory that expansion was done primarily for basketball purposes, and that Mike Krzyzewski and Duke athletic director Kevin White were among the biggest proponents. Which sounds... improbable. And it includes this sentence:
According to sources in the Big East and ACC, the idea is to reestablish the ACC as the preeminent conference in college basketball and was a predatory strike at the Big East, which, while struggling to improve its BCS rankings in football, had established itself as the runaway leader in basketball.
I doubt you could find anyone in the ACC willing to say, even off the record, anything resembling "the Big East had established itself as the runaway leader in basketball." Most wouldn't agree with the sentiment – and I count myself among them in that regard – and even those that did would be shouted down if they tried to voice it in an expansion meeting. Writer Mark Blaudschun's theory sounds like something thought up by a Big East school left behind.
Eventually Blaudschun drops the anonymous sources long enough to get the one guy (outside of John Swofford, who provided a boilerplate statement) willing to go on the record, Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo. Who promptly dismantles Blaudschun's theory:"
It had nothing to do with basketball,'' said DeFilippo. "It was football money which drove expansion. It was football money and securing our future.'' [...]
"Mike Krzyzewski didn't stop expansion the last time and he was not going to start expansion this time,'' said DeFilippo.
So, having secured an on there record statement saying his off-the-record quotes are wrong, Blaudschun... presses right ahead. He claims the "master plan" from "Krzyzewski & Co." (worst jewelers ever) was to bring in Syracuse and Connecticut. But BC opposed Connecticut, something Blaudschun can support with a DeFilippo quote:
"We didn't want them in,'' he said. "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.''
And so Pittsburgh was invited instead. Duke and Carolina are specifically mentioned as not understanding BC's argument against UConn, a bit of color I find both amusing and wholly implausible, considering how past expansions have gone. But the thing that makes the whole article incoherent is a bit back at the top, in another quote from DeFilippo:
DeFilippo said the move was dictated in part by the expansion of the Southeastern Conference to include Texas A&M, which prompted the Big 12 to inquire about Pittsburgh, which is in the Northeast, an area in which the ACC felt it necessary to expand.
"We wanted new playmates and we wanted Eastern playmates,'' said DeFilippo. "When the Big 12 inquired about Pittsburgh, we asked, ‘Why let them come into our area?' ''
So, the entire expansion was kicked off by the threat of the Big 12 poaching Pittsburgh (plausible!) but the initial response was to savage Pitt's conference without offering a spot to the Panthers? That's nuts. There was an equally unsourced report I remember reading somewhere – I can't find it now, but it was unsourced to begin with, so you're not missing much – saying the process was the ACC wanted to reach 14 quickly to inoculate itself from any defections. The offered Syracuse and Pitt, their top two choices, but told them if they didn't jump quickly, the conference would move on to UConn and Rutgers. That frankly seems more plausible than the story Blauschun's pitching. But it gives something for Huskies fans to be angry about and glosses over the fact that they don't bring much to the table in the first place, so why let a little thing like common sense get in your way?