GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – What’s the most desirable school in the Atlantic Coast Conference for those other leagues that might want to court them?

That barroom debate often focuses on traditional football powerhouses, such as Clemson and Florida State, or mega TV markets, such as Atlanta or Miami, and occasionally on prestige basketball programs, such as North Carolina or Duke.

But we’re talking about a school that would be attractive to powerful conferences that may include Alabama and Texas (SEC) or Ohio State and USC (Big 10), and the argument must exclude all-but-football member Notre Dame, because both leagues would take the Irish’s national prestige in a second.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde, stealing a page from WalletHub, is taking a stab at settling this. Forde created a matrix of data to rank the desirability of the 69 schools in the so-called Power 5 conferences.

His top school from the ACC is Clemson, which checked in at No. 16. Florida State was at No. 19, and if you want to get a little closer to home, he had North Carolina as the third ACC choice, tied for No. 22. More on the others later.

Nicholas Petit-Frere #78 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after winning the Big Ten Championship game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2019. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Forde ranked each school on five data points – Football rank, Academics, All sports, Attendance and Viewership – and then used a reverse-rank point total, meaning that if you ranked No. 1, you got one point, so fewest points win.

That led him to place Ohio State as No. 1, with 31 points, just two points ahead of the Buckeyes’ arch-rival, Michigan. Then came Notre Dame (37), Texas (41) and Georgia (53).

Yes, Notre Dame was No. 3 because its programs ranked among the top 10 in every category but Attendance, and curiously the Irish tied for 2nd for Viewership, which is surprising because it has its own football network, NBC.

Football ranking is based on the Sagarin ratings from 2017-21, Academic ranking is based on the U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings for 2021, All-sports standings are based on the Learfield Director’s Cup for the 2021-22 academic year, Football attendance was based on NCAA reports since 2017, tossing out 2020 for obvious reasons, and Broadcast viewership is the total number of football games that drew 1 million or more viewers, since 2017 but minus 2020.

About UNC

Former UNC running back Javonte Williams (25) runs while Wake Forest defensive back Caelen Carson (29) chases during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

North Carolina’s rank was based on being No. 6 in All sports (that lacrosse title helped) and tied for No. 11 in Academics. It was tied for No. 48 in Football rank, No. 39 in Attendance and tied for No. 41 in Viewership (if only basketball counted). That netted 145 points, the same as Oregon and just ahead of Tennessee.

Forde writes that “there could well be a fierce battle at some point over North Carolina. School and conference administrators and TV execs like the Tar Heels more than these rankings do. Former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany long theorized about bringing his alma mater into that league, and the SEC likely would also covet Carolina. Its academic profile, stature in the 10th-most populous state and appeal as a power in men’s basketball and Olympic sports would be an attractive commodity in realignment.”


Wake Forest’s Jack Freudenthal (86) runs away from Michigan State’s David Dowell (6) for a touchdown during the first half of the Pinstripe Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 27, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The ACC overall benefited from having strong academic universities. In fact, if you include Notre Dame (No. 5), the league posted 11 of the top 25 academic universities, missing only NC State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Louisville. The league had three of the Top 10 and six of the Top 15.

Here’s how the rest shaped up:

Miami tied for No. 25, with a fairly even ranking across the board.

NC State tied for No. 30 (elevated by a 17th in All sports).

Virginia was No. 32, with high Academics (9th) and All sports (11th).

Virginia Tech tied for 35th, helped by being No. 21 in attendance.

Pittsburgh was No. 46, with its best rank for academics (tie for 24th).

Wake Forest was No. 47, with a tie for 11th in academics.

Duke was No. 50, with a tie with Northwestern for 2nd in academics.

Georgia Tech was No. 54, with a 16th for academics.

Louisville was tied for No. 55, with All sports (33rd) being its best.

Syracuse was No. 60, helped by academics (tied for 24th).

Boston College was No. 63, ranking 15th for academics.

Other schools

The average ranking for each conference had the SEC first (25.1), followed by the Big Ten (25.8), the ACC (39.6), the Pac-12 (41.4) and the Big 12 (49.3).

Ohio State ranked 2nd in Football rank, tied for 20th in Academics, was 4th in All sports, 3rd in Attendance and tied for 2nd in Viewership.

The No. 1 schools in each category were Football rank, Alabama; Academics, Stanford; All sports, Texas; Attendance, Michigan; and Viewership, Oklahoma.