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UNC-to-SEC rumors return, and we might've found the new Notre Dame

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Both the Big Ten and SEC are reportedly interested in perhaps the ACC's flagship school.

Grant Halverson

That report from earlier in the week about North Carolina having a Big Ten offer, which came from a source with a track record on the subject? It gets juicier, for those who like juicy things:

Now that Notre Dame's sort of off the conference realignment table, by way of joining-but-not-really-joining the ACC, it would appear that the Tar Heels have taken over as the program with the longest line of suitors, based on reports at least. And it would make sense.

But UNC's a basketball school! Not another Kentucky!

There'd be some selling to do, that's for sure. UNC isn't a true cultural fit, like Virginia Tech would be, and has very few ties to SEC schools. But this is not a new topic; I've thought for a couple years now that UNC in the SEC would work better than we might assume, likely even better than Missouri.

The Heels tend to rank as the second or third biggest non-SEC athletic department in the southeast in revenue terms, offer a national brand name due to basketball success, would add a state's worth of TV markets that the SEC can't currently claim, are usually decent at football and elite at just about everything else, have a recently expanded football stadium with room still to grow, could eventually give South Carolina its first real truly reciprocal in-conference rival since it left the ACC in 1971, and carry significant academic weight despite being scandal-prone as of late. Long sentences!

Such a move would also damage the Big Ten, since whether Jim Delany would feel pressured to react or not, he'd be down his best option either way. Pair it with a Hokies pickup and it could knock the ACC out of the South entirely (perhaps by launching Florida State and Clemson to the Big 12, Georgia Tech and Virginia to the Big Ten and others to parts unknown). And then, voila, Notre Dame's back on the market.

But that's realpolitik stuff. The SEC has no need to expand and has yet to figure out how to tastefully absorb the last two schools it brought on, with future scheduling still a sore post-expansion subject. Not that having no need to expand has ever stopped a conference from expanding.

Watch for UNC buzz to pick up as offseason madness takes hold. If either the SEC or the Big Ten decides to expand, I'd be surprised to see anybody but the Heels near the top of either list.

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