Future of ACC on display at Final Four
Posted April 5, 2013
Syracuse and Louisville are technically representing the Big East at the Final Four in Atlanta, but they have the full attention of ACC fans. It's all we can do without any teams from the conference making the trip for the third straight year.
It's a preview of sorts for what the conference will finally look like once the realignment dust settles.
ACC commissioner John Swofford understood the changing landscape of college sports when he initially expanded the conference with Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to improve the football brand. Swofford used similar talking points with the subsequent additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville.
However, the cliched talk of footprints and academic fits rang a little hollow, since the moves were reactionary instead of forward thinking. Credit to Swofford for convincing his constituents to come off longstanding positions such as full-time membership, but the ACC made moves to survive in a volatile landscape.
Strangely enough, the ACC came out the other side as a stronger basketball conference when it was clearly not the goal. The irony is not lost on Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who used a couple NCAA tournament press conferences to offer his opinion on how officials in Greensboro should best use their strong assets.
"It makes us the most powerful basketball conference, I think, ever," said Krzyzewski. "And I hope our league is able to understand the assets that we've accumulated and what it does to the assets we already have. I think if positioned properly, it sets us apart from anybody."
Back on March 19, Krzyzewski compared basketball and football to sodas when reminding everyone what founded the ACC in the first place.
"Diet Coke, they’re still trying to sell Coke. In other words, you have something that’s going good, try to keep it really going good and I don’t think we’ve had an emphasis in that," said Krzyzewski. "In the future, with the league that we will have, we need to really go after it and take a look at everything that we do because we will have the most powerful basketball conference."
So how does the ACC use an already strong asset to prove all the other assets in the conference's portfolio? A subscription cable channel comes to mind, but Swofford seemed cool to the idea on 99.9FM The Fan back in March.
"In today's world it's the sexy thing to do," said Swofford. "I think it remains to be seen as to whether all those channels can be successful over the long term or not. We're very interested in that if the right business plan can be there that makes sense for us and ESPN."
The worldwide leader holds all the cards when it comes to the possibility of an ACC Network since they own all the inventory. While ESPN is working in conjunction with the SEC to start up their own network this summer, the suits in Bristol might be wary of starting up too many dedicated conference channels in the wake of their own Longhorn Network struggles and the PAC 12's issues getting into homes.
But Swofford does have control over how the ACC can market itself and create demand. For starters, the conference needs to come up with a new vision for the ACC Tournament. He can also manipulate demand during the regular season through better scheduling.
The basketball slate is already imbalanced and the primary partner system unecessarly locks teams into forced "rivalries." Instead, Swofford should make the schedule fluid and adapt it to the demands of the audience. Right off the bat, the ACC would have must-see games with Syracuse visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Smith Center. The first trips to Louisville would create incredible buzz.
And if the coaches complain about potential imbalance, Swofford can always point back to Krzyzewski's comments where he demanded these powerful assets to be utilized.