I want to dispel a misleading notion propogated by the ACC tree huggers from UNC and elsewhere that the ACC is not just an athletic conference.
Much is made of the ACC IAC and its significance and how, more broadly, the ACC lifts up the academic standing of its member institutions.
The ACC is an ATHLETIC conference. Certainly it supports student athletes - but that’s something that EVERY major conference does.
So, let’s look at the components of the ACC’s IAC ( http://acciac.org/)
1. Undergraduate Research Symposium (AKA MOM: Meeting of the Minds Conference) - this is a weekend conference for each member school to send 5-10 undergrad students along with some small number of faculty advisors for a 3 day weekend conference at a member institution’s facility. There is no shared research. This is a nice reward for hard working undergrads to present papers to each other and to undoubtedly enjoy a few nice meals together and some local entertainment.
What its not: a collaborative joint research project of the kind that helps a school become an AAU member.
From the IAC’s website - all expenses are paid by the ACC - total budget: $55K. If the Big 12 wanted to replicate this program - they could do it tomorrow by writing a small check.
Its a nice function but it hardly carries major gravitas vis a vis: research function. Its a bunch of kids presenting papers to each other while they go bowling at night. Each presentation is 15 minutes with 5 minutes of discussion.
2. Student Leadership Conference - another weekend conference - again with 5-10 students from each school with the general topic of “leadership”. There are seminars, dinner, lunch - total cost is $50K. Again the Big12 or any other conference can just write a check and bingo - they have this covered.
3.Creativity and Innovation Fellowships - OK this is nice - but hardly earthshattering - each school gets $12,500 to fund 2-5 fellowships that reward students who show creativity, innovation, etc. That’s $12,500 TOTAL each year split 2-5 ways. While the intent is nice - this is another drop in the bucket by the ACC and clearly not a big deal in terms of advancing any member schools academics.
4.Student Abroad Scholarships - each year the ACC provides $5000 to each school to fund between 2 and 5 scholarships for students to study abroad.
5. Coach for College Scholarships - like all the ACCIAC’s activities - this is nice. The ACC provides funding ($60K) to send student athletes to Vietnam to coach middle school kids there in sports. This summer 32 kids will travel to Vietnam to coach 400 Vietmanese youngsters. In addition to the ACC’s part, each school is expected to contribute $2600 per student and each student is expected to contribute $1600.
6. Study Abroad - again this is nice - but easy to replicate - any student at an ACC school can study abroad using the connections of another member school. So for example, FSU has a very well developed study abroad program in Italy. If you go to BC - you could attend FSU’s Italy program. Nice, but not a big deal.
7. Clean Energy Grant Competition - The Dept of Energy offers $100K in grants that are awarded to winners of competitions managed by the ACC.
8. Traveling Scholars - PHd candidates at ACC schools are permitted to use the libraries, labs, access courses, etc. at other member institutions for up to 2 semesters (or 3 quarters) while paying tuition at their own school rates.
So to summarize:
For any conference to match the ACC’s IAC - you need to pony up $375K annually to cover conferences, symposiums, fellowships, and scholarships that apply to approximately 392 students conference wide (or about 33 students per school). ACC TV money is $13M per team per year today or $156M per year for the conference. $375K represents 0.24% of the annual ACC contract.
In terms of monetary commitment - the ACC could virtually almost not do less. Each school’s share of the $375K per year amounts to $31.25K - which is probably the average cost of tuition at each school for one student. In other words - minimal financial commitment.
The Study Abroad program costs each school nothing - perhaps some small amount of admin costs to process students from one school to another. Every school has study abroad programs - so this is easily repeatable by the Big12.
The Clean Energy Grant competition hosted by the ACC (mostly Maryland) may have some cost - but it doesn’t appear to be significant. Hard to believe that the Big12 wouldn’t also have a similar program or the ability to replicate this one regionally. Especially with many energy rich states in the Big12.
The Traveling Scholar program is nice - no doubt - but again - doesn’t seem to have any real cost to member schools and is certainly something that any conference could make available.
What’s not anywhere in the ACC IAC’s charter? Meaningful, collaborative research projects. Here’s an example:
Why not bring together - on a quarterly basis - senior research faculty to try to find areas that cooperative research can be done between member institutions with the primary goal of receiving grant money and the secondary goal of helping member institutions achieve AAU membership?
FSU today is involved in several research partnerships - none of which are ACC based. http://www.research.fsu.edu/partnerships/ FSU works with the University of Tennessee, the University of Chicago, a consortium of Southeastern universities, etc. But no ACC based partnership is anywhere to be found. If the academic impact was significant for member institutions - wouldn’t you expect there to be meaningful research partnerships sponsored by the ACC?
The reality is that the ACC is an athletic conference that spends almost the minimum that it could spend on academic functions. The notion that ACC membership supports academics in any significant