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Washington isn't going to get major league baseball. But it's still a great time to be a sports fan.

12:00 AM, May 1, 2002 • By FRED BARNES
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IF YOU'RE NOT a fan of big time college sports, skip this item because it's about making college sports even bigger, at least in the East. I'm well aware of all the problems with Division I college athletics: the low graduation rate for athletes, the recruitment of athletes who have no business being in college at all, the gut courses, the insistence on winning at all costs, the crazed coaches, the betting. Still, tens of millions of Americans love college sports, and I'm one of them.

The latest trend is toward bigger conferences that are split into two divisions and have a championship game. You see this in the Big Twelve (Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, to name three schools) and in the Southeastern Conference (Florida, Tennessee, LSU). These 12-team conferences were created by adding new schools to an already existing conference. They are fantastically successful, financially, as well as thrilling for fans.

My proposal is to do the same thing in the East and Southeast, using the Atlantic Coast Conference (Duke, North Carolina, Florida State) as the base. Right now, the ACC has nine teams, an unwieldy number. By adding three more, it would have enough for two six-college divisions, north and south. Who should join? My candidates are Miami, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse. Each is now in the Big East conference. It's a weird conference in which some members don't compete in football. Surely a super-conference would be more attractive to Big East members.

The north division would consist of Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and two North Carolina schools (take your pick). The south would have the other two North Carolina colleges, plus Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami. Among other things, the new conference would excel in lacrosse, with perennial power Syracuse joining the four good ACC teams. In basketball, it would be number one in the nation, in football, number three or higher.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.