Now that the Atlantic Coast Conference has announced the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, there are at least two members that believe the ACC should seriously consider taking the next step by adding two more schools.
Maryland and Duke are among those privately expressing interest in a 16-team conference, according to ACC-member representatives with knowledge of recent private discussions. According to the representatives, other ACC schools also favor moving to 16 but at least one unnamed member was against expansion.
But officials from two ACC schools cautioned Sunday that the conference was not close to being ready to approve Connecticut — not all members are on board with that move — or any other school as a 15th or 16th member. The officials, who declined to be named while the matter was ongoing, declined to put a timetable on the next possible expansion.
One of the officials said there remained concerns about striking the proper balance between football and basketball. One member school, Florida State, has indicated its interest in making sure whatever conference it is in — including a reformulated ACC — has a high enough football profile. Florida State has formed a committee to examine its options.
In public remarks, Maryland and Duke were among the most ardent supporters of not standing pat.
"These two institutions (Syracuse and Pittsburgh) are a great fit for the league based on the quality of the athletics programs and based on the quality of their academic reputations," Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said Sunday in a prepared statement. "We look forward to discussions about the future of the league and would encourage a future expansion."
Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse "is a real coup for the ACC."
Maryland is one of seven original ACC members. A large part of Maryland's sports identity has been shaped by its basketball battles with Duke, North Carolina and the other ACC schools. But in an era in which it is difficult to predict multiple conference shifts, Maryland officials have said it is better to be "proactive" than "reactive."
In a Sunday conference call, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference is "comfortable" for now with 14 teams. But he said a double-digit number of schools have expressed interest in joining. He declined to discuss Texas or other possibilities.
Adding Connecticut or another Big East possibility — Rutgers — would further extend the ACC's reach into the New York City area. Syracuse has a number of fans there as well.
With the conference's strengthened northern presence, Swofford said the ACC would be "remiss" not to consider holding an ACC basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. The arena has long been central to the identity of the Big East, which is trying to stay viable. "I continue to believe the Big East Conference is well positioned for the future and that the events of the past 24 hours will unify our membership," commissioner John Marinatto said in a prepared statement.
The ACC is headquartered in Greensboro, N.C. Since 1990, the men's basketball tournament has been held in North Carolina four times as often as it has been held anyplace else. Former Maryland coach Gary Williams often said the North Carolina schools had a travel advantage because the league was so North Carolina-focused.
The ACC moves come in the midst of shifting and uncertainty that has affected all the major conferences. Swofford said he never feared the ACC was about to be picked apart. But he also said he's never been through such a period of realignment before.
Left uncertain Sunday was exactly when Pitt and Syracuse will become part of the new conference and how the divisions will be configured. Swofford said the ACC would respect the Big East's by-laws as Pitt and Syracuse determine when they depart.
Maryland football coach Randy Edsall is a Syracuse graduate. "I'm looking forward to competing against" Syracuse and Pitt, he said Sunday.
Notes: Edsall said suspended receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree could be back this season. "They have to regain my trust," he said in a conference call. "It could be two weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be six weeks, it could be the whole season." … The coach said he was "amazed" that Maryland was in Saturday's game against West Virginia — a 37-31 defeat — despite a number of mistakes, including three interceptions. He said quarterback Danny O'Brien was subpar but that "I know this — he'll learn from it."
West Virginia 37, Maryland 31
Maryland's no-huddle offense got off 87 plays and produced 477 yards total offense, the sixth straight game over 400 dating back to last season.
Maryland got off to a painfully slow start, was intercepted three times and surrendered 388 passing yards to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.