Busting Brackets

Big Ten Courting North Carolina? Forget It, Tar Heels Are Staying Put

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Murmurs about the imminent demise of the ACC are as inane as they are inaccurate, but they aren’t going away.

Today’s rumor du jour, which ensnares the league’s flagship program, is sure to stoke the realignment flames. Whether there’s actual fire blazing beneath the smoke is another matter.

North Carolina has received an invitation to join the Big Ten, according to 247Sports.com’s Jeff Ermann. Ermann, who was the first to report that Maryland had agreed to trade conference hats, mentions UNC and Virginia as the top two targets on the Big Ten’s radar.

Chapel Hill spokespeople have not commented publicly on Ermann’s report; however, USA Today’s Dan Wolken, who spoke with university officials in Atlanta on Tuesday, insists the rumor is more sizzle than steak. Let this marinate:

Of course, North Carolina reps wouldn’t tip Wolken even if they knew of a conference power play brewing behind the scenes. And if the school’s higher-ups are any better at handling athletics affiliations as they are unprecedented academic scandals, it’s unlikely more than a handful of officials would be privy to such information. Even so, the fit just doesn’t make sense.

North Carolina is not ditching the conference it helped found, elevate to first-class status and sustain as one of the most powerful associations in college hoops for more than a half-century. It isn’t swapping the cachet of its ACC brand for a slightly larger paycheck, or leaving its seat at the head of the ACC table for a stool among the rank and file of the Big Ten. North Carolina has been John Swofford’s golden child since the commissioner took office. Betraying that preferential treatment for a downgrade in prestige isn’t worth the trouble.