CHARLOTTE — Players and coaches from the ACC’s Atlantic Division schools gathered in Charlotte on Thursday to talk about the upcoming season on the second day of the league’s annual Football Kickoff media event.
The hot topic of conversation among the participants, however, was the goings on elsewhere in college football thanks to the growing speculation that Texas and Oklahoma are preparing to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.
The consequences of such a move would create a ripple effect that inevitably reaches the ACC. But from a strictly football perspective, NC State linebacker Payton Wilson is excited about the possibility.
“I grew up a huge college football fan (and) Oklahoma and teams like Texas are the big traditional schools,” Wilson said. “You don’t see Oklahoma and Alabama and teams like that play during the regular season, and I think it’s going to be an awesome deal. If I was in the SEC, I’d tell them to come on.”
As much fun as such matchups might be, not everyone around the ACC is as enthusiastic about the kind of seismic shift that would set off another round of major conference realignment.
Wilson’s coach Dave Doeren is among those who would prefer to see things remain as they are. Like most others around the country, he said he was surprised when the news first began to break on Wednesday.
“I was in the Big 12 when it was the Big 12, back when they had Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and had incredible rivalries in that conference,” said Doeren, who was an assistant at Kansas from 2002-06. “It was awesome to see Nebraska and Oklahoma play, Texas-Texas A&M with the big bonfire, KU-Missouri going all the way back to the Civil War, the stories that were told about that.
“From a historical standpoint, I was disappointed when the Big 12 changed to the way it is. Not that it’s not smart business for the schools, but for purists I didn’t like that. If they lose those two teams it would be pretty damaging for that conference.”
The ACC has no such worries thanks to a grant of rights that obligates its current 14½ members to remain in the conference until at least 2036.
That doesn’t mean the ACC would be insulated from the repercussions of a major change in the college football landscape. If the SEC expands to 14 teams, the ACC would almost certainly look to follow suit and add two more teams of its own.
“There are constant changes we see in college football,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell said. “You look at (name, image and likeness) and the things we’ve had to experience this year with COVID and the potential college playoff expansion. You have to have a willingness to adjust and be progressive in your thinking in what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to accomplish.”
With Notre Dame looking as a potential target, especially after the experiment of last season and the Irish already playing as a full conference member in all sports except football, speculation has already begun as to which school might be the best fit should the ACC choose to expand.
While West Virginia, another team currently playing in the Big 12, has been the most frequently mentioned candidate, NC State’s Wilson said he’s not picky as to which team the ACC would add.
“Just bring anybody,” he said, adding that he would also “love to play Notre Dame.
“They kind of came into the ACC last year, and the ACC showed them a lot more love than they should have gotten.”
As intriguing as the subject of religinment might be, it’s a conversation Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson would just as soon leave to others.
“I’m going to stay in my lane,” he said. “I don’t think the SEC, Oklahoma or Texas really care what the Wake Forest coach thinks about their expansion.”