Commish: Changes burnish ACC's reputation
Posted March 13, 2014
Greensboro, N.C. — ACC Commissioner John Swofford’s excitement about the expanded ACC Tournament was apparent Wednesday in a wide-ranging interview with Adam Gold and Joe Ovies on 99.9 FM ESPN Radio. Swofford touched on the new fans, teams and rivalries which, with conference expansion, add to the historically strong basketball reputation of the ACC.
“We have a lot of good basketball players, and the fans in the (Greensboro) Coliseum seem to have a great time in here,” said Swofford. “It’s a unique moment in the history of the tournament because we start on Wednesday and have a concert between two games.”
Swofford pointed out that fans of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse were new to the experience.
“The transition for Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh has gone really well for the schools and for the league as well,” Swofford said. “There are some new rivalries established, and the basketball has been outstanding.”
He looked ahead to a probable Duke-Syracuse rematch in the ACC Tournament semifinals, noting that the teams’ two meetings during the regular season were the two top-rated college basketball games on ESPN. Duke played in four of the top five rated games and an ACC team was involved in eight of the top 10.
“You want to see that kind of numbers from a television standpoint. It really says a lot about the national interest in this league,” Swofford said. “We are fortunate to have a lot of terrific programs with great tradition and history.”
Those new rivalries create a welcome challenge in planning the ACC schedule, he said.
“We are trying to put a schedule together to make every game interesting without beating the players up,” Swofford said. “The only way to do that is to find a balance between the business side of the schedule and the competitive side of the schedule.”
“We have a lot of great teams in the conference, but I’m sure that the new teams are going to leave their mark too,” he said. “We have an opportunity for numerous quality games next year, because we have the strongest competition in college basketball.”
Greensboro gets competition for ACC showcase
Conference leaders are also looking at the future of the tournament as a way to maximize exposure. After five straight years in Greensboro, the games will be played in Washington, D.C., in 2016. After that, the location is yet to be determined.
“We will continue some kind of rotation in the future,” said Swofford. “We have a different footprint now, so moving to the north, like New York, is probably in the future. They have amazing facilities there, but it depends on their availabilities.”
Swofford said it’s a good time for the ACC to take a step back and evaluate some things. The new members give the league a lot of new opportunities.
“Moving the championship game back to Saturday night would be back to the future for the ACC,” said Swofford. “We moved to Sunday afternoon in the 80s for television reasons, but time changes, and now Saturday is a better TV moment.”
“We will make decisions that are in our long-term best interests in making this league the best in this country,” said Swofford. “I remember when I watched the ACC in class when I was younger, and I came to this tournament for the first time as a college student,” said Swofford. “I never lost my love for this tournament and I enjoy it every time just as everybody else.”
Swofford and ACC leaders are also taking advantage of a transitional moment to anticipate changes to the football schedule.
They recently announced a deal to keep the ACC Football Championship in Charlotte for the next 6 years.
The ACC is moving to seek an exception to the NCAA rule that requires a conference to have 12 teams and two divisions to hold a football title game. The ACC would prefer to set their own standard of whether and how to feed a football championship game.
“We’ll see if they accept it,” Swofford said. “It doesn’t mean we would change our system, but we would have a chance to decide our own schedule.”
Five major conferences nationwide are also negotiating with the NCAA to get more autonomy related to student-athlete welfare, Swofford said.
“We don’t want to pay athletes because that would be a disaster,” said Swofford. “We just want to do more for the athletes like giving them better medical care or give their parents the opportunity to come to championship games.”