Bad week gets worse for Swofford
Posted May 21, 2012
It was a terrible, no good, very bad week for the perception of ACC football.
The new television deal with ESPN, initially a public relations win, turned into a source of misinformation and speculation about the future of the conference. Florida State only made matters worse because the people in charge couldn't get their stories straight about being committed to the ACC.
The conference meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., went from a news-side note to full-blown TMZ-like coverage. And why not? The previous rounds of conference realignment followed the same script, featuring blustery talk about the death of a league and the emergence of an even more consolidated power structure in college football. All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again.
In this iteration, the roles of the ACC and Big 12 have been reversed. John Swofford finds himself trying to keep the conference from falling apart - something Dan Beebe failed to do last summer when Texas A&M and Missouri left the Big 12. Meanwhile, Florida State has done a superb job matching the level of dysfunction shown by Texas A&M. Will they follow the same story arc and leave for supposedly greener pastures? Financially it would put them in a bigger hole than their facilities improvements, but exit fees can be worked out if the school is truly determined to get out of town.
The perceived death spiral stopped when a fat television contract saved the day, but Beebe was collateral damage. Swofford will be doing his best to avoid the same fate and will need a Hail Mary of a PR stunt to change the current conversation.
Impact of bowl partnership between SEC & Big 12
Pompously dubbed the "Champion's Bowl," the SEC and Big 12 will put their conference champions in a New Year's Day bowl beginning in 2015. In essence, they created a Rose Bowl East, but there is more to it than just consolidating the conference power structure.
The tell is in the partnership opening up the venue to outside bids and leaving the old bowl structure behind. For starters, it allows the SEC and Big 12 to take more control of the financial aspects of post season play. The "Champion's Bowl" also lays down the groundwork for an expanded playoff since the likelihood of a champion from the SEC or Big 12 not making the new BCS event is sparse.
One thing is certain -- the ACC is the odd conference out in this college game of thrones.
As much as the emergence of a Big Four in college football impacts Swofford's conference, it puts additional strain on Notre Dame's preference for independence. Even if the Big East doesn't disintegrate, the conference gets further away from what the Irish initially wanted for their non-football sports. Meanwhile, their football team is put in a terrible position where they need to win it all or get nothing in return. There is no conference championship safety net or prestigious bowl partnership outside of the new BCS format.
Swofford's best play before winter would be for the ACC to add Notre Dame to its roster before the BIg 12 - or at least partner with the Irish in the post season. The idea of a Big Four wouldn't suddenly morph into a Big Five, but the ACC would at least keep from falling dangerously behind in the football arms race.