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Conference Realignment Talk – Where do Hokie Fans Want to See Virginia Tech?

By Rich Luttenberger | January 25
Virginia Tech vs Florida State cover

Florida State’s Lawsuit Heightens Rumors and Hokie Nation Weighs In

You have to be living under a rock if you do not know about Florida State’s continued attempts to get out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The talk started last year and heated up over the summer. Then, when FSU went undefeated and was left out of the College Football Playoff (becoming the first undefeated Power 5 champion ever to gain that “honor”), Seminole Nation blew up in anger, and the school filed a lawsuit against the ACC.

In the most recent round of this fight, FSU alleges that ACC commissioner Jim Phillips extended ESPN contract deadlines without the approval of the league members. This is very important, because if it is true, it could be the key to FSU’s early departure.

If the Seminoles can win their legal battle – or even negotiate a better buyout and media money forfeiture, they could be out of the ACC possibly before the original ESPN contract expiration of 2027. And should they leave, others are certain to follow, as Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina have been the subject of many rumors of the “next schools out.” If those four exit the ACC, the viability of the 70-year-old conference will be at serious risk.

What Does This Mean for Virginia Tech?

If Florida State opens the door for an exodus from the ACC, what will this mean for Virginia Tech, who was part of the group of seven ACC teams to explore this option last summer? Obviously, without the top brands, the league is less attractive to the television networks, which could adversely affect revenues. And with the recent seismic shifts in conference realignment, there are few, if any, top brands available to bring in to a “revamped” ACC.

Virginia Tech at Ohio State
If Florida State leaves the ACC, Virginia Tech could potentially play Ohio State again - as a conference foe! (Photo credit: Jay LaPrete / AP)

This would leave the school with a serious choice to make: should the Hokies seek a conference home elsewhere? Or should they stay in a revamped ACC?

This is the very question that the Sons of Saturday put out via X (formerly Twitter), hoping to hear what Hokie Nation has to say about the issue.

Where do Hokie Fans Want to See Virginia Tech?

In early January, the Sons of Saturday Podcast X-account posted (Tweeted for you “old” folk!) the following poll:

Question of the Day.

If FSU leaves the ACC and others follow suit, what conference do you want to see the #Hokies call home? And why?

1,795 users cast their votes. We cannot guarantee that all of the votes came from Tech fans, but it is likely that a majority of them were indeed part of Hokie Nation. Given the audience of the Sons of Saturday, this is a safe assumption.

The results of the poll showed that half (50%) of the responders, whom we are assuming to be primarily Virginia Tech fans, desire that the Hokies to move to the SEC. A quarter (25.4%) said they want their Hokies in the Big Ten. 15.4% would like Tech to stay in a revamped ACC, and only 9.1% prefer a move to the Big XII.

Obviously, these other conferences would have to extend an invitation to Virginia Tech, and Florida State et al. would have to bolt first. Let's just assume that both of those happen...what would then be best for the Hokies moving forward?

Why the SEC is a Good Option

It is easy to understand why Virginia Tech fans desire to be in the SEC. The conference has been dominant in the college football playoff. Their fans are incredibly passionate about their teams. The SEC and Big Ten are expanding, and their new media deals will make them the richest two conferences in sports – by far.

“Ultimately, I think the SEC and BIG10 will want a flag planted in VA and we will be one of them.”

-Shockingly Unsurprised (@jwlhokie)

Hokie fans are smart. They know that conference realignment is all about the money. A few poll responders made that abundantly clear:

Robert Peterson (@REPETEinDC) said, “The bottom line is the SEC drives the money train and will for the foreseeable future.”

Jacob Givens (@givensjacob6) commented, “Money wins games!! Go where the money is. Revamped ACC or BIG12 won’t make as much as the SEC or BIG10.”

The Big Ten and SEC, who have been the richest conferences in recent years, have each inked new media deals that push their revenues to obscene numbers. If the opportunity presented itself, why wouldn’t Virginia Tech want to follow that money?

Power 5 revenue chart
2022 stats - the gap is only growing

Geographically, Virginia Tech is a “southern” state who once belonged in the Southern Conference that preceded the SEC, so that is another fit for the Hokies. And with five SEC campuses falling within the six-hour radius of Blacksburg, the Hokies’ proximity to these schools could spur regional rivalries.

Wouldn’t it be fun to play Tennessee every year? Frank Beamer’s son coming into Lane Stadium would make for a great sub-plot every time South Carolina came to town. And Hokie fans are itching for another “jab” at Kentucky since the fisticuffs at pregame of that dramatic Belk Bowl loss in 2019.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface of excitement for fans in playing a full SEC schedule. Imagine when Tech plays tradition-rich teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M…the list of blue bloods is deep, and Hokie Nation would not only pack the stands when those teams came to Blacksburg, but they would gladly make those road trips and flock to see the Hokies play on Saturdays in the South.

Dibble Want SEC keep VA kids home

Tech fans are passionate, and that makes them a good fit for the SEC. Tailgates, pep bands, traditions…The Grove, War Eagle, Sandstorm, Woo Pig Sooie…all the pageantry of college sports is best displayed in the SEC. Autumn Saturdays in Blacksburg attempt to rival those in SEC towns, and Tech fans live for that. Just look at Andrew Shumate’s response (@a-new-shu). He wants the Hokies in the SEC “because they have the most fans bases that care about football.”

Although Football is king, the SEC is loaded with talent in other sports, too, which is exactly how Cody Stepp (@cstepp80) responded. He wants Tech in the “SEC. Not just for football, but I think the major and Olympic sports are a better fit for that conference than any other.”

Virginia Tech is located in the South, and many of its alumni are also in the South. The best conference in the South, the SEC, is arguably the top conference in all of college sports right now. It should come as no surprise that half of the fans who responded would want the Hokies to move into the SEC should the opportunity present itself.

The Big Ten is a Good Second Option

Even though the Big Ten is basically a midwestern league (not including their recent expansions to both coasts), a quarter of the responders did indicate a preference to join the league up North. The first and most obvious benefit to Big Ten membership is revenue. There are 80 to 100 million annual reasons to want to be in that league!

Besides the money, though, there is a perceived fit in identity. Tech’s style of play meshes more with the Big Ten than it does with the SEC. As Joe da Plumba (@JoeMama75045979) put it, “That style fits the identity Pry is trying to establish. Tough defense. Hella rushing game. Mobile QB that can throw too. [I] Feel like playing Big Ten teams will get our school exposure where it seems offensive linemen pop out of the womb ready.”

It’s not “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust,” but the brand of football of the Big Ten definitely feels similar to the brand of football that has been the staple of Tech’s program over the past few decades.

And let’s be frank…even though Tech is located in the South, it still gets cold in November, and the Big Ten is a cold-weather conference.

“Financially, it has to be the Big Ten or the SEC. I would be more excited about attending games against the SEC schools, but I think we would be more competitive in the Big Ten”

-Greg Fowler (@HokePrd)

Like the SEC, there is a lot of pride and pageantry of the Big Ten, especially at the top, and even more so with the addition of the Los Angeles schools. Storied programs such as Michigan, Ohio State, USC, UCLA, Nebraska, and Penn State bring the allure that Tech fans would eat up.

Imagine a road trip to the Big House, or to the White Out at Happy Valley, or to a Southern California getaway to see the Hokies play in the LA Coliseum or the historic Rose Bowl. Picture yourself doing the Wave at Kinnick Stadium or bouncing to “Jump Around” at Camp-Randall. Those are bucket list kinds of experiences!

Another benefit of joining this conference is the chance to win games. Unlike the SEC, where Virginia Tech could struggle to be any better than a .500 team, the Big Ten is not as top-heavy. After Michigan and Ohio State, and now Oregon and maybe Penn State, the league is hardly filled with juggernauts. Virginia Tech could step in and compete right away. Could the same be said about joining the SEC?

If the SEC did not come calling, the Big Ten would be a pretty good landing spot for Tech.

Some Fans Would Rather Stay Put in a Revamped ACC

In a somewhat surprising result, staying in a revamped ACC was not the least desired option. Yes, the top brands could be gone from the league, but some Tech fans appear to be nostalgic toward the good ol’ days of Big East football, and some are even fond of the old Metro foes.

“Maybe this is me being too young and naive or just selfish. But I kind of want for Tech a kind of combination of ACC and old Big East. So like a conference with eastern big state schools: NC State, Clemson, GT, UNC, WVU, Miami, UVA and some others like Tulane, Pitt, Cincinnati.”

-Nicholas Van de Meulebroecke (@Niklavan)

Losing Florida State, Clemson, Miami, and North Carolina would hurt the ACC, but from a Tech fan’s perspective, only half of those four were really part of the Hokies’ history in the league.

Since joining in 2004, Tech has played UNC and Miami almost every year. Conversely, they only played 11 regular season games combined against Clemson and Florida State in those twenty years. While losing them will have a financial impact on Virginia Tech, it will be less of an emotional impact for the Hokie faithful.

The remaining ACC teams have more history or connection with Tech. And like Van de Meulebroecke said above, a revamped ACC provides Tech with more opportunities to play bigger East Coast state universities (imagine finally having a rivalry with North Carolina State!)

Also, Tech could compete right away in this league. The path to the conference championship – and an automatic playoff berth – is probably easiest in this conference when compared to the other three.

It definitely would be the least powerful of the “Power 4,” but isn’t that where the ACC is now anyway?

Why is the Big XII the Least Desirable Option?

The Big XII is definitely the third best conference behind Big Ten and SEC (assuming the top ACC brands are gone). It brings in less revenue and has fewer big-name teams. And travel for Virginia Tech would be brutal in a Big XII that is essentially the 3.0 version of Conference USA.

However, if the Hokies end up here, they could quickly become the big fish in the smaller pond. This is what Dibble (@sdeibel11) prefers. “Realistic BIG 12 -> could join and instantly be top 3 brand in the conference.”

Photo credit: WVU Athletics

In the Big XII, the Hokies could win early, and they could become a perennial power with some fun matchups. Think West Virginia and the Black Diamond Trophy. Then look at Baylor, Utah, and Colorado with Coach Prime. Saturdays would be FUN!

Fans agree. Shockingly Unsurprised (@jwlhokie) said, “Honestly I think SEC is best, but I said BIG12. That is going to be a fun conference. Get the WV rivalry back and maybe end up keeping Miami or more local school like NC State.”

VaTech_editz (@vatecheditz) concurred. “Big 12 would probably be the best fit for us. Black Diamond trophy. Could bring another local ACC school like NC state.”

There are great road trip possibilities, but there unfortunately there are too many of them, which is probably why Tech fans desired this destination last. Factor in the “little brother conference” perception to the expanded Big Ten and SEC, and Tech could again find itself in a conference continually yearning for respect.

However, the Big XII is known for some wild games and crazy outcomes, so even if Hokie Nation is watching at home, landing here could provide a lot of great games and memorable moments on the field.

Closing Thoughts

All of this speculation is fun. Kind of. For some, it is terrifying, because if the top teams leave the ACC, Virginia Tech’s future will be up in the air. And this scares more than just a few Hokie fans.

Obviously, the SEC and the Big Ten will provide the most revenue and the most stability. But do those conferences even want the Hokies? And although the Big XII is the least desirable option for Hokie fans, it does appear to be the third best conference in terms of long-term viability. But would they want to expand again and take Virginia Tech?

Attendance Graph Tony Altimore

This will all pan out in time. I’m guessing sooner rather than later based on some of the recent developments in Florida State’s lawsuit against the ACC. But then again, FSU did sign off on the current media deal, and the courts are not known to support plaintiffs whose problem is that they made a bad deal.

So for now, Hokie fans should probably do themselves a favor by forgetting about expansion and realignment. At this point, it is all still conjecture. Any talk is purely speculation, so why stress ourselves?

Instead, enjoy the moment. Something is brewing in Blacksburg. Head Coach Brent Pry is building the foundation for success, and there are a lot of positive vibes around the program. Hokie Nation is excited about next season, as we can just feel the momentum.

Brent prys contract salary net worth and more 696x464

And if things continue to move where they are trending, that will only help the Hokies’ cause in the potential for realignment.

Tech fans may not agree on where they want to see the Hokies play in the future, but one thing is for sure, all of Hokie Nation will be JUMPING with excitement in 2024 hoping to make a run at the ACC title!

Go Hokies!

Screenshot 2023 12 23 at 12 20 07 PM

Born in the Bronx but otherwise raised in northern New Jersey, my Hokie life began in the fall of 1989. I walked on to the baseball team and spent a year and a half as a redshirt catcher. After my stint with the baseball team ended, I finished my time at Tech on the ice hockey team, playing Hokie hockey as a club sport. Despite this pursuit of other sporting interests, my passion became Tech football, and I have been a die hard fan ever since.

When I’m not obsessing over Hokie sports, I enjoy running, traveling, and fostering dogs. And of course, spending time with my wife and three kids. My “real job” is as a high school English teacher, where I have worked for over a quarter of a century (and everyone in the building knows where Mr. Lutt went to school). My daughter is now a Hokie - as if I needed another reason to make the long drive to Blacksburg!

I started my sports writing journey with Gridiron Heroics, covering Virginia Tech football and some college sports news. But I’m excited to join the Sons of Saturday now and I look forward to adding content through my story-telling abilities.

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