If I was a top high school recruit with a scholarship for Oregon State baseball or Stanford volleyball right now, ACC and AAC talks would have me a little nervous due to the big Bacon’s Standard Map of the United States on my wall.
Google Maps tells me that every single ACC school resides in Eastern Standard Time, and you only avoid crossing the Mississippi en route to an AAC school if you are facing off against one of the Texas teams. Those constant all-day flights sound like a nightmare and a complete competitive disadvantage.
Forget the money — there’s a West Coast conference just waiting to blossom with wildly entertaining football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis, rowing, wrestling, etc., without leaving the Rockies, and that can give these four schools a competitive edge rather than a handicap.
Here is a possibility that can make Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington State players and fans almost happy the other eight Pac-12 schools left:
What if...the Mountain West gets taken up a notch?
It’s the second week of March. The Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas is rocking as the sold-out crowd awaits the tip of the Mountain West title game between the San Diego State Aztecs and the Stanford Cardinal. The winner punches a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Just a few months before, Oregon State won their second MWC football championship in a row, and all year long, the 15-team conference has been the home of the most competitive, thrilling, and rich competition in America regardless of the sport, as the deep and balanced league has no “doormat schools” lagging way behind the “name brands.” It’d be one of the biggest conferences in D1, and is already quite good, so adding four Power Five squads would be a win for everybody involved.
The former Pac-12 teams could thrive there, and so could the current Mountain West schools—all without becoming jet-lagged ACC doormats. And why stop at 15? Add Gonzaga in basketball for an even 16, and you have a conference that everyone in it enjoys being in, including the ones left behind in the torpedoing of the Pac-12 freighter.
Sports are played for fun. Student-athletes play these games, and fans watch them because they enjoy it so much. And games without transcontinental flights all year in a competitive, well-stocked conference sounds way more fun to me than the ACC and AAC.