The student news site of Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Hi-Times

The student news site of Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Hi-Times

The student news site of Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina

The Hi-Times

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The ACC Expands West

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   The landscape of college sports has been transformed over the past couple years. Everything from name, image, likeness compensation (NIL, to conference realignment is shaking up what we thought we knew about collegiate athletics, and it was only a matter of time before these changes reached close to home.

   Starting in 2024, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) will welcome three new member schools, adding to its 15 ( 14 during the college football season) current members. The addition of the University of California Berkeley (Cal), Stanford University, and Southern Methodist University (SMU) will mark the first shakeup of the conference since 2014, the longest active streak in the Power 5.  

   The Atlantic Coast Conference, based in Charlotte, made up of teams stretching across the east coast, adding two Pacific coast teams and one Texas team seems counter-intuitive. The expansion epitomizes how conference realignment has upset the foundation of region-based athletics, with programs chasing money and prestige across the country in an effort to expand their brand. With Oklahoma and Texas opening the floodgates by announcing their move to the SEC in 2021, and USC and UCLA following suit and going to the Big 10, the whole of college sports has seemingly been on the move. 

   How Cal, Stanford, and SMU ended up in the ACC is a long and complicated story years in the making. Cal and Stanford emerged from the remnants of the Pac-12, which was decimated by their recent departures and now only claim two members. Their decision was one of necessity and survival, no matter how odd it seems on the surface. SMU found themselves in a similar but less dire situation as the powerhouses of their conference, the American Athletic Conference, took off for new homes. While the AAC was able to replenish themselves with new members, the Mustangs decided it was their opportunity to finally reach the Power 4 ( the four, previously five, conferences that dominate collegiate athletics), an ambition they’d possessed since the 1980s. Recognizing the ACC’s need for another school to fill the newly opened 6th 3-team pod created by Cal and Stanford, SMU leaped into the discussion. The pressure of conference realignment forced all three into an unprecedented situation that disregarded location and instead focused on the wellbeing of the program. 

   How these moves will impact the ACC is yet to be determined. This is an unprecedented time for all of college athletics and, with rumors circulating of more schools jumping ship, we really have no clue if the conference will become a powerhouse, fall into obscurity, or fizzle out altogether. The sports we grew up knowing and loving aren’t going to be the same as they’ve always been but perhaps it’s time to adjust our minds ( and sleep schedules) to accept these new teams. Hopefully Cal, Stanford, and SMU will bring something fresh and exciting to the ACC and keep the best of college sports alive.