The case for the ACC to add WVU as its 16th member

accSitting at various breakfast and lunch tables with sportswriters at last month’s ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, I tried to make the case for the ACC to go with West Virginia as its 16th member.

You’d think I’d grown a second head with the looks that I got shot back at me.

Great idea. Add a tiny TV market.

Not a good fit academically.

The second one is fair – WVU ranked 241st in the latest US News and World Report college rankings. The rest of the ACC ranks in the top 80, aside from Louisville, which sits at 176.

Louisville as the outlier there helps make my case for why we’d go WVU. We went money on that one, and as you’ll see when I break the rest of it down, you’ll see that there’s money with WVU coming in.

The TV market thing is not what you’d expect it to be. You’d assume that WVU, in Morgantown, would be in a tiny TV market, in the Middle of Nowhere West Virginia.

You’d be wrong.

Morgantown is in the Pittsburgh DMA, which ranks 26th among the 210 TV markets in the U.S., according to Nielsen.

The smallest, you’re familiar with – Charlottesville, which sits at 177.

You could make the argument, well, we’ve already got Pitt in that market, why would we worry about whatever WVU can bring?

Think this one through. Where do you think Pitt football ranks among viewer choices in the Pittsburgh TV DMA?

In football season, you have the Pittsburgh Steelers. In basketball season, you’d get good odds on the Pittsburgh Penguins doubling or tripling whatever Pitt basketball draws.

And back to the fall, I’d guess that WVU football would get more viewers than Pitt football in that market, considering that the market includes Morgantown.

There is one other ACC TV market with multiple teams – the Raleigh-Durham market, the home to UNC, Duke and NC State, which ranks 24th in the U.S. in the Nielsen numbers.

So, WVU helps the ACC solidify a good-sized TV market, one of the top five in terms of number of TV viewers in the conference.

There’s value to that.

Looking at finances, then, WVU would be a top-shelf team in terms of bottom line.

According to 2019 figures from USA Today, West Virginia reported athletics revenues of $102.7 million, which would have ranked sixth in the ACC among the nine schools for which that information is available, and not far behind UVA ($110.2 million), which ranked fourth.

The private schools – Boston College, Duke, Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse and Wake Forest – don’t have to report those numbers.

It’s a safe bet that only Notre Dame from among that group would rank ahead of WVU in overall bottom line.

One other metric that I looked up this morning – the number of living alums.

WVU ranks well here as well, at 210,000. I didn’t research every ACC school, but my quick look has Florida State at 360,000, North Carolina at 342,000, Virginia Tech at 238,000, UVA at 230,000, Georgia Tech at 166,000, Clemson at 154,000.

WVU has fans, basically.

They make money there in Morgantown.

The TV market is top five in the ACC.

There’s natural rivalries – with Pitt, with Virginia Tech, UVA.

It’s not at all a stretch.

Story by Chris Graham


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