Is that...a SMILE?!?!?! - Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
We're way deep in the hypothetical here, but if some combination of UNC, UVA and GT joined the Big Ten, what would they bring to the table athletically? We dig into the details, and the results may surprise you.
The rationale for expansion outside of the traditional Midwestern borders has been explained many times. Big Ten schools are at a demographic disadvantage and need access to new recruiting territories, the league wants more of that sweet, sweet TV (and secondary media) market money, raiding the ACC would bring in more superior academic research institutions, etc. Those reasons are all well and good.
But you know what? You're probably not a demographer, you probably personally don't care that much if Purdue or Iowa gets a little more cable TV/Internet coin, and while bragging about B1G academic superiority is kinda fun, it's really the kind of thing you only pull out if/when you're getting clobbered on the field.
What inquiring minds really want to know is this: If the Big Ten is bringing UVA, UNC or GT, what do they add to the league in terms of athletics?
Let's take a look.
Virginia: Currently 18-8, fringe NCAA bubble team. Over the last five years, 1 NCAA appearance (lost in the second round in 2011-2012), 2 losing seasons. Total W-L record over five years: 80-75 (not counting this season).
Cavalier basketball has been decidedly "meh" recently, which lead to the dismissal of Dave Leitao and the hiring of Tony Bennett for the 2009-2010 season. Coach Bennett did lead the Cavs to a 22-10 season and an NCAA appearance last season, paced by Senior forward Mike Scott, but Virginia has played around .500 basketball during his previous seasons, and will likely need some luck to grab an NCAA spot this season.
Virginia's mediocrity isn't really recent, though. They haven't been ranked in the preseason top 25 since 2001 and haven't made it to the second weekend of the NCAAs since 1994-1995. If Maryland comes back to form, and Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State etc are able to sustain their success, Virginia may find basketball success hard to come by.
Georgia Tech: Currently 14-11, postseason play doubtful. Over the last five years, 1 NCAA appearance (lost in the second round 2009-2010. Total W-L record over the last five years: 74-87.
The last five years have not been kind to Yellow Jacket basketball, although like UVA, they have a fairly new coach who may be able to turn things around in former Michigan State assistant (and Dayton head coach) Brian Gregory, who took over in 2011-2012. Unlike UVA, Tech does have some a somewhat recent history of strong success. They made the NCAAs 3 out of 4 years from 2003-2007, including a National Title game appearance in 2003-2004. Georgia Tech has the tradition and proximity to a strong recruiting base to become a solid hoops program again, but like the Cavaliers, would likely not be an immediate value-add for the Big Ten.
North Carolina: Currently 18-8, probable NCAA team. Over the last five years, 4 NCAA appearances, 1 National Title, 2 total Final Fours. Total W-L record:151-38.
Pretty staggering, right? Even with a rare "down year" this season and in 2009-2010 (where the Tar Heels won "only" 20 games), North Carolina has been one of the most consistently excellent teams in all of college basketball, which should surprise exactly nobody. North Carolina basketball would almost certainly be the most attractive single property the Big Ten could add in expansion from a competitive standpoint, and the prospect of regular UNC match ups with Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State should make any college hoops fan excited.
Basketball Verdict: UNC is obviously the best in class, UVA/GT would represent buying "low" on potential growth programs.
Virginia: Last season: 4-8. Last 5 seasons: 2 bowl appearances, both losses. Highest AP ranking: 24. Total W-L record: 24-37.
Cavs football is in a bit of a rough stretch, with 4 of their last 5 seasons being losing campaigns. It wasn't always this way though. From 1987 to 2005, Virgina made a bowl all but 4 seasons. With Virginia becoming more and more of a strong football recruiting state, and with fans generally having a high opinion of coach Mike London, it's possible that strong Cavalier football campaigns could come back in the somewhat near future. Right now though, Virgina would project to be another middling, average B1G school.
Georgia Tech: Last season: 7-7. Last 5 seasons: 5 bowl appearances including 1 BCS bowl. 1 Bowl victory (2012 Sun Bowl). Total W-L record: 41-26.
Did you guys realize that Georgia Tech has made 16 bowl games in a row? The Yellow Jackets haven't been "elite" in 20 years or so, but they have been one of the most consistent programs in college football. This is even more impressive when you remember that Chan Gailey coached Georgia Teech for 6 seasons and that Reggie Ball was once their quarterback. The Yellow Jackets are probably not likely to compete for regular Big Ten titles, but if their recent history is any indication, they'll always be competitive, and good enough to ruin your day.
North Carolina: Last season: 8-5. Last 5 seasons: 4 bowl appearances, and would have been 5 if not for NCAA sanctions. 1-3 bowl record (Music City Bowl victory). Total W-L record: 39-25.
Butch Davis was able to take a Tar Heel squad mired in mediocrity under John Bunting and turn them into a top 25 team. Sadly, he apparently did that while breaking all kinds of NCAA rules, leading to his ouster and a bowl ban. After a stint with now Buckeye defensive coordinator Everett Withers, the Tar Heels are now under hot coaching name Larry Fedora, who led them to a competent season last year. UNC is often branded about as a possible "sleeping giant" in football, given the university's location, size and market power. I'm a little skeptical, given their lack of an in-state monopoly, status as a "basketball school" and proximity to SEC schools who will try to poach their kids, but UNC has the potential to be part of college football's upper-middle-class, and fight for a B1G title on very good years.
Football verdict: Nobody here is going to challenge Ohio State or Michigan for continuous B1G superiority, but GT and UNC have the potential to join the Nebraska/Michigan State group that will add solid depth to the middle of the league. Plus, having a triple option team to play with the more pro-style and spread squads would be a hell of a lot of fun, don't you think?
Virginia: 7 consecutive NCAA appearances, 2010-2011 ACC champs.
Georgia Tech: 12 consecutive NCAA appearances, 2012 ACC tourney champs.
North Carolina: 11 consecutive NCAA appearances. 2006 and 2007 national runners up.
Verdict: I think it's safe to say any of these schools would represent a significant upgrade in the Big Ten Baseball department.
Olympic Sports – as measured by President's Cup standings
Virginia: 2011-15th, 2010-7th, 2009-3rd
Georgia Tech: 2011-72nd, ,2010-59th, 2009-45th
North Carolina: 2011-8th, 2010-6th, 2009-7th
Ohio State (for context): 2011-4th, 2010-2nd, 2009-8th
Verdict: UNC and UVA are elite, well rounded athletic programs that will complement Ohio State as top 5 threats. GT is much farther behind but isn't embarrassing compared to the rest of the league.
Lol, c'mon, man.
Ultimate Frisbee (per USA Ultimate)
Virginia: 2012-43rd, 2011-8th
Georgia Tech: 2012-23rd, 2011-41st
North Carolina: 2012-12th, 2011-112th
(Iowa is 3rd, Wisconsin is 4th, Minnesota is 6th, Michigan is 16th)
Verdict: Did you guys realize that the Big Ten is a potential Frisbee power? With UVA and UNC joining, the Big Ten could totally rule the green, brah.
Quidditch (per the International Quidditch Rankings; shut up, this is too a thing)
Georgia Tech: Doesn't seem to have a team, which must be some sort of mistake.
North Carolina: Doesn't have one either!?!
I don't want to live in a world where Texas A&M is apparently an international quidditch champion and Georgia Tech doesn't have a team.
Somewhat like Rutgers and Maryland, UVA and GT would be athletic programs that are more attractive for their potential than what they can contribute immediately. Georgia Tech and North Carolina would still offer competent and viable football right off the bat, if not perennial bowl caliber football, while the Tar Heels would obviously bring in an iconic and dominant basketball program. Top to bottom, any combo of these schools is probably more attractive athletically than Maryland or Rutgers, cultural issues be damned.
If you're still not convinced, remember. Delany could always decide he wants Boston instead. Be grateful with what we have.