I know, I know, John Swofford SAID there wasn't going to be a 16th member. He also said that the ACC wouldn't accept partial members and that the ACC was not "philosophically opposed" to 16. And really, I don't trust a word that comes out of conference commissioners' mouths when it comes to this sort of thing.
So let's play with hypotheticals. Because eventually, I think the coaches are going to put enough pressure on their presidents and athletic directors to make some sort of change in membership. Let's get rid of the "little to no chance group" right off the bat. This would include Penn State, any non-FBS football school (looking at you Villanova), and any other school from the other BCS conferences outside of the Big East. Swofford really seems to be good at getting Big East schools to join, so chances are, that's where the next school will come from.
My list of targets after the jump
Louisville: If the ACC didn't care about academics so much, I would have to think that the Cardinals would be the top priority. They're definitely my top choice. It's pretty obvious that geography doesn't matter to conferences any more and Kentucky really isn't that much further from most ACC schools than Indiana is. The Cardinals bring the best of both worlds: a good football program and a strong basketball tradition, not to mention also being solid in non-revenue sports. UL has great facilities and a commitment to be one of the top athletic programs in the country. The ACC also seems to love rivalries with the SEC and I don't know many that get more heated than Louisville-Kentucky.
The cons, though, are enough to make the ACC move on to the next school. Louisville isn't exactly near a major media market. It's not that close to many ACC schools as well. And academics, which are high on the ACC's list, aren't the strongest at Louisville. Not saying that Louisville isn't a good academic institution, but the ACC values high academic rankings, which Louisville does not have.
Rutgers: Or as I like to call in this case, the opposite Louisville. Geographically, they fit perfectly and would help link the Northeastern schools to the rest of the ACC. Academically, they would be right in the middle of the ACC's range. Market wise, they "bring the New York market", which if you add Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Rutgers, you would have a pretty large part of the New York college fan base. Football is better than it was 10 years ago and basketball has a lot of potential. New Jersey is also a big recruiting area in both sports that would open doors for other ACC schools.
But athletically, tradition is lacking. No one is saying that Louisville has a great tradition in football, but they at least have been to a BCS game and won conference titles. Rutgers has neither and they haven't been to the NCAA Tournament in men's hoops since the 90s.
Connecticut: The last of the three Big East schools I see the ACC considering. UConn has been dying to get into the ACC since Pitt and Syracuse announced they were leaving. They're a good geographic and academic fit with the rest of the ACC and would provide Boston College with an instant rivalry. The basketball team has a great history of success under the now-retired head coach Jim Calhoun, winning three national titles in the past 12 years, and the football team has been to a BCS bowl.
But like Rutgers, there is little football tradition, even though they've had some success in the conference. UConn did just move up to the FBS level in 2004, after all. Connecticut also is seriously lacking as a recruiting base and while they do have some sway on the New York market, it's not nearly as much as Rutgers does. And furthermore, I seriously doubt Boston College would ever agree to let the Huskies into the ACC.