When the Atlantic Coast Conference decided to expand to 12 teams, the idea was to accentuate football.
The league wanted a football championship game, to keep the television revenue rolling in and, finally, after all these years, to become a true national powerhouse in football.
Yet, what has occurred since that expansion is remarkably like what has happened with virtually every decision the league has made since the original seven schools met in Greensboro in the spring of 1953. (Virginia did not join until December of that same year.)
After just a few years of glowing football success in the 1950s, Frank McGuire won the national championship in basketball at North Carolina. N.C. State continued to be a national power in hoops, and Vic Bubas turned Duke into a true juggernaut in basketball.
Since McGuire's Miracle in 1957, basketball has reigned. Nonetheless, every move the league has made (with the exception of going it alone with higher entrance exam requirements in the 1960s) has been designed to benefit football. And, with the exception of Florida State's run in the 1990s as a new member of the league, nothing the conference has done has been able to elevate its status on the field to that of the Southeastern Conference, or even that of the slow-footed Big Ten.
But when the ACC added Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami, particularly the Hurricanes, the league seemed assured of becoming the equal of anyone in football. At the same time, there did not seem to be any reason expansion should affect basketball. Carolina and Duke have been carrying the load for that sport for a couple of decades and will continue to do so.
At the bank, expansion has been a success. The addition of the coveted football championship game led to a monster television contract (even though attendance is an embarrassment). When the league added Fox Sports to the basketball package, revenue for the golden goose swelled so much that the pot overflowed, as it has so often for the league that pioneered televising college basketball.
Unfortunately, what has happened on the football field has been an utter disappointment.
Despite the best intentions and some Herculean efforts on the league's part, the teams themselves have not kept their side of the bargain.
Yes, the league is better than it gets credit. All one has to do is look at the bowl game outcomes each season to see that. The ACC more than holds its own.
But making an impact with genuine national championship contenders -- teams such as Miami in the 1980s and '90s and earlier in this decade, and Florida State from the 1980s until 2000 -- just has not happened.
Florida State has disintegrated into an embarrassment. Having penalized a huge number of its players for cheating, FSU has become an ordinary program. Miami, which was supposed to be the ACC's insurance policy in case FSU fell off, fell on its face not long after Butch Davis rebuilt it into a dominant program in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Virginia Tech has continued to win, but not without more than its share of humiliating incidents off the field. Plus, there just isn't anything sexy about the Hokies for many people outside the state of Virginia.
Boston College has been good, but even the people in New England don't care. Boston is a pro sports town that barely glances at the college scores. So, if the locals don't care, why should anyone here in the South?
The void has become so great that Wake Forest was able to rush in and fill it. Wake Forest.
At one point in time, only Kansas State had a worse record in football than the Deacons. And while this will certainly stir a stream of hate mail, having Wake Forest as the only power in the league outside of Blacksburg has only proven how far FSU and Miami have fallen.
Clemson, oh, yeah, let's not forget the Tigers. They've been threatening to win big again since Danny Ford and his bag of money left town, but for the most part those have been idle threats.
Carolina actually had a chance to become a true two-sport power, but Mack Brown was told he'd need to go to Texas to find a football program as big as UNC basketball. So he left.
He won the national title down there, too, by the way.
After tripping over its own feet since Brown packed his bags, Carolina finally has a chance to reclaim the position it gained in 1996 and '97. Butch Davis and this coaching staff are the real deal.
This column had to be written before Saturday's opening game, but I stand by that statement regardless of the outcome of the opener against McNeese State.
The hype surrounding this season's team may be a bit much, given that the best Carolina has done since going to the Peach Bowl in 2001 is a 6-6 record. Nevertheless, the void created by Miami and Florida State's demise, plus the arrival of Davis at UNC, presents the Tar Heels with a chance to do what Brown did. Win big.
But it needs to happen reasonably quickly.
Just as Duke and Carolina would never let their basketball programs flounder for a long period of time, FSU and Miami are not going to let football wallow in mediocrity for much longer.
The next game for Carolina, a week from Thursday night at Rutgers, is a tremendous opportunity for this year's team and the immediate future of the program. Rutgers has earned a lot of respect in recent years, but there is no way that team represents overwhelming power.
If the Tar Heels can go up there and win on national television, they can generate the momentum they need for the rest of this season and make the kind of impact on recruits needed to reel them in.
As for the league as a whole, it has its money from expansion, but we're still waiting for the results on the field.
Let's hope they come soon. The wait is getting painful.