Conference realignment is all about one thing: football. As the Big Ten and SEC look to gobble up the best college football teams in the country, regardless of borders and boundaries, the rest of college sports gets thrown into a lurch.
Forgotten in the churn are sports like women’s soccer. Expanding conferences across both coasts puts a laughable time and travel burden on these teams that play multiple games per week. The increased costs of travel to reach California will strain budgets and student-athletes’ GPAs alike.
But there’s another aspect that hasn’t really been touched on by any school administrator, athletic director, coach, or pundit. Would throwing a lifeline to Pac-10 powerhouses like Stanford and Cal give them an immediate recruiting boost against ACC schools? UNC women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance seems to think so:
Stanford and Cal operate in the same recruiting circles as UNC, Duke, and Virginia. They’re outstanding academic institutions with strong athletic programs that recruit nationally. Dorrance already has to fight an uphill battle when recruiting on the west coast when Cal and Stanford can offer similar things closer to home.
With UCLA off to the Big Ten and the rest of the conference chipped away to the Big 12, Cal and Stanford are looking at the wrong end of the ultimate game of musical chairs. But their loss could be UNC’s gain. If you were a top soccer player in California, would you want to play in a non-power conference just to be close to home, or would you want to play in the ACC?
It’s almost refreshing to hear the Machiavellian honesty from Coach Dorrance when he says he doesn’t want to rescue his recruiting rivals by pulling them out of obscurity and into the ACC, just to have them bring burdensome travel and logistics, plus strong competition in living rooms across America. He’d rather see them “die on the vine.”
There are many reasons to oppose bringing Stanford, Cal, and SMU into the ACC. Let’s not forget one of the simplest ones: it’ll make it harder for some of our teams to win national championships. And that’s what we care about after all, right? Not who has the best TV contracts. Who has the most chips. And Anson Dorrance knows a thing or two about that.