Morning Five: 05.16.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s now been nearly two days since the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes was won by Bill Self and Kansas. Reactions have run the gamut and we ran down a number of the better ones in yesterday’s M5. One we missed was this fantastic piece by Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star, who writes that everyone in the media and greater college basketball community needs to be very careful with the hyperbole when discussing Wiggins next season as the “Best High School Prospect Since Lebron.” Mellinger breaks down each of the best prep players in the last 10 years since Lebron, and the truth is that most of them can’t even sniff an NBA All-Star Game at this point. Some guys continue to progress, while others level off, and it’s a lesson worth remembering. Then he finishes things off with a fantastic anecdote about the humility of prep Lebron. Well worth a read.
  2. Once the ACC raided the Big East to lock up prized programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it appeared inevitable that the league would eventually move its showcase event — the ACC Tournament — to Gotham in short order. Those premonitions seem to be coming true, as ESPN.com reported on Wednesday that the league is “thoroughly investigating” a move to the World’s Most Famous Arena at some point in the next several years. The ACC Tournament is scheduled to be in Greensboro in 2014 and 2015, but the options are open afterward, while the new Big East has contractually obligated MSG to hold its postseason tournament there until 2026. The crux of the matter is that the Big East will need to meet certain benchmarks to keep its deal with The Garden alive, and given just how shaky the league has become in the interim, many ACC insiders believe that the “legal ramifications” to move its own event will get worked out as a matter of course. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also an option too, of course, but make no mistake, the ACC Tournament will eventually reside at least part-time in NYC.
  3. While on the subject of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week and SI.com‘s Andy Staples caught up with commissioner John Swofford to get the inside scoop on how he pulled off “the most chaotic reorganization in the history of major college sports.” It’s somewhat wonky and process-oriented, but it gives a true insider’s perspective on the importance of the Maryland defection and how the perceived likelihood that the Big Ten would seek to continue moving south (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) had Swofford failed to get his schools to agree to the media grant of rights deal in April. Although conference realignment has been disastrous to college basketball in some ways, we’re hoping like everyone else who loves the sport that this particular initiative holds steady and removes the incentive for continued raids for a good long while.
  4. Yesterday was a busy day on the transfer wire, as quite a few prominent names announced that they are on the move. The most surprising name was perhaps Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall, who was projected to be a key cog in the Nittany Lions’ resurgence next season but has instead decided to leave school to pursue professional options. The least surprising decision was that Arizona State’s Evan Gordon announced that he is headed to Indiana, where as a graduate transfer he will be eligible to play immediately for Tom Crean. A few other notables: Minnesota’s Joe Coleman is leaving the Gophers; Tulane’s Josh Davis will land at San Diego State; and, Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze will resurface at Charlotte. Davis will be eligible to play immediately at SDSU under the graduate transfer exception.
  5. Perhaps seeing a bit too much of Rick Pitino in the media lately, Kentucky head coach John Calipari held his own press conference yesterday to discuss the state of his program. And since we’ve already addressed the subject of hyperbole above, why not let Coach Cal bring us full circle: “We’re chasing perfection. We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done before in the history of this game.” The perfection he refers to of course is the elusive-since-1976 undefeated season by a Division I men’s basketball team. Since Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers ran the table 37 years ago, no team has won the national title with fewer than two losses (including Calipari’s 38-2 championship squad in 2011-12). Look, we’re never going to say never because as soon as you do something like that, a Florida Gulf Coast goes to the Sweet Sixteen. But there have been an awful lot of great teams pass through the years without a sniff of a perfect season, and the concept that a team led by a bunch of freshmen — even freshmen as good as UK’s group will be — can bring the noise every single night for up to 40 games next year is nothing more than fantasy. Still, the players don’t know that, so it’s another great marketing/strategic ploy from the master salesman living in Lexington. For what it’s worth, the Wildcats sit as a 4:1 (20%) or 5:1 (17%) favorite in Vegas to win next year’s title.
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ACC M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 19th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: After several months of beating his drum, Dan Kane finally found a whistleblower from the North Carolina athletic support staff. Mary Willingham is the first named source to come out and directly say that plagiarism was tolerated by the tutors and professors in many no-show classes at UNC. A witness has been the missing piece to this story, and Willingham’s criticism is damning to say the least. She alleges special treatment for revenue sport athletes, both in terms of admissions and questionable classes. Willingham’s comments will take some further dissection but do not look good for the school at first reading.
  2. ESPN: The biggest news over the weekend was the bombshell dropped out of College Park when sources within the athletic department told ESPN that Maryland is far enough along in negotiations to join the Big Ten (along with Rutgers) and that an official announcement could come as soon as later today. This makes the ACC’s recent addition of Notre Dame even more important, though it could also spark additional expansion moves (does Connecticut become an ACC target?). By switching leagues, Maryland would likely see a significant boost in television profits in the long run, but the recently increased $50 million dollar ACC buyout could cripple an athletic department already in the red in the short term.
  3. Washington Post (pro and con): Two Maryland legends spoke out for and against the Terps’ potential move to the Big Ten. Gary Williams is all for the move despite supporting the ACC throughout all the expansion rumors. It should be noted that Williams serves as assistant to the athletic director, so it may color his opinion a little (though Williams was never scared to speak his mind before this). He cited the increased television revenue and hinted at a lack of respect from the ACC (noting the conference tournament was only hosted in Washington, DC, once in his 22 years). Len Elmore on the other hand fought for tradition: “Anything that’s driven solely by dollars, it’ll turn out badly.” Elmore took some shots at Maryland’s president and athletic director for not having Maryland pride. Expect more from us here at the ACC microsite on the potential move today.
  4. Wilmington Star News: NC State’s Debbie Yow earned herself an extension with increased supplemental compensation. Yow’s new deal runs through June 2017 and is a direct result of a successful coaching search (in hindsight at least) and the steady improvement that the Wolfpack’s athletic teams have seen under her tenure –most prominently, on the basketball court. Yow will continue making $354,000 a year with an extra $150,000 in supplemental earnings and an enhanced bonus structure going forward.
  5. Hampton Roads Daily Press: David Teel sat down with John Swofford to talk all things ACC. The majority of the interview is covered in his excellent profile, which ran Sunday. But the extras are also worth reading, especially Swofford’s optimism on merging the Notre Dame and ACC football deals in the near future. He also talked briefly about working above Dean Smith at North Carolina and the ongoing scandal in Chapel Hill.
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The Big East Tournament and Madison Square Garden Stay Together

Posted by mlemaire on October 17th, 2012

Television rights negotiations may have stalled, but new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco made sure that the Big East Tournament isn’t going anywhere as he announced today at Big East Media Day a new 10-year contract between the conference and Madison Square Garden. The contract will keep the Big East Tournament in New York City for at least another 14 years and any college basketball fan who has watched some of the past Big East Tournaments played there should be happy the tournament is staying put. It is hard to even imagine this conference tournament somewhere else, just because of all the history and tradition that the venue and tournament have provided over the years.

For The Next 14 Years, Big East Fans Will Be Treated To Moments Like These

This deal is huge news for the Big East and its fans who have been searching for some good news amidst a sea of defection announcements and stalled television rights negotiations. There may be fewer marquee teams on display in the league starting next season, but any tournament held at Madison Square Garden, especially one as annually competitive as this one, will capture a national audience and draw fans to New York City. That is likely one of the main reasons why James Dolan and the rest of the decision-makers at Madison Square Garden agreed to the deal instead of chasing after the ACC Tournament as many had speculated.

The move is especially nice for the Big East because it effectively blocks the ACC from using the venue anytime in the near future. When it was announced that PittsburghSyracuse, and Notre Dame were all leaving for the ACC, many commentators thought that the ACC would try to extend its footprint into New York City and have their tournament at Madison Square Garden. It made a lot of sense considering how many fans of a “home” team like Syracuse  show up for the games. But ACC commissioner John Swofford ruled the Garden out as a potential destination last month, and while Aresco told the media that his conference’s deal had nothing to do with the ACC or any other league, it probably feels pretty nice not to have to look over his shoulder anymore.

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Morning Five: 05.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 17th, 2012

  1. Keep moving along. Nothing to see here. That was the stance of ACC commissioner John Swofford on Wednesday in reference to the earth-rumblings regarding Florida State’s rather public dalliance with the Big 12. Taking part in the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, this week, Swofford said that he had spoken with FSU president Eric Barron there and had enjoyed several “positive” conversations which clearly leads him to believe that the Tallahassee school is sticking around. Public statements from officials in positions of power are virtually meaningless these days — especially when it comes to this topic — but we really don’t see Florida State leaving the ACC for a few million dollars when they’d be ceding so much of their existing power to Texas as a result.
  2. Better late than never, but the NCAA announced yesterday that Washington, DC, would become the site of the 2013 East Regional during next year’s NCAA Tournament. Usually the regionals are well settled at this point in time, but reports suggest that the NCAA ran into contractual issues trying to lock up Madison Square Garden (or another NYC-area site) for next year’s tournament. The Verizon Center in downtown DC has served as an NCAA Tournament site several times in the previous decade, and its convenient location built on top of a Metro station makes getting to and from the venue a snap. The other three regional sites in 2013, which have been settled for some time now, are the Staples Center in Los Angeles (West), Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (South), and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (Midwest). Where are you headed?
  3. How much is an elite college basketball head coach worth? USA Today reported on Wednesday that Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski was paid $7.2 million by the university for his work in the calendar year 2010. According to their research, Coach K’s total compensation that year represents the second-highest total by a head coach (basketball or football) since the publication started tracking the figures in 2006 (Rick Pitino earned $8.9 million in 2010-11). K’s total in 2010, where he no doubt met a number of incentives for winning the national championship, blew his $2.0 million base salary up to nearly four times that amount. When you add in Krzyzewski’s corporate sponsorships to that total, you begin to see that the Duke head coach is competitive with some of the sport’s best-paid athletes in terms of compensation.
  4. While on the subject of Krzyzewski, he announced earlier this week that this summer’s Olympic Games in London would be his last as the head coach of Team USA. There’s no question that Coach K has accomplished a couple of important things as the CEO of the men’s national team. First and foremost, he used his otherworldly player management and motivational skills to encourage (at the time) very young players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul to play together and win a gold medal as a selfless unit (both in the Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Championships). This was no easy task, as the 2008 Redeem Team earned its name after the disastrous bronze medal performance in Athens from the 2004 team. The second thing he was able to do was to satisfy his appetite for coaching the very best players in the world, something that he had flirted with a couple of times previously. This allowed him to stay in his rightful place in college basketball at Duke where he belongs, rather than moving to the NBA for a certainly less-fulfilling experience. Gregg Doyel writes that Coach K was able to do something that not even NCAA/NBA champion Larry Brown could do — keep world-class professional athletes hungry and motivated — and he questions whether the next guy is likely to do the same in 2016.
  5. Former Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine’s wife, Laurie Fine, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that she will sue ESPN for libel based on the organization’s reporting that (she claims) made her appear as a monster who allowed her husband to molest children. Fine said during the presser that her life has been “ruined” by these allegations to the point where she can no longer go out in public anywhere in central New York. ESPN came out with a response immediately afterward stating that they stand by their reporting. One of the interesting questions that will help define the course of this claim is whether Fine is considered a “public” personality as the wife of the former SU assistant coach. Public figures face a much more difficult threshold to prove libelous claims against them, whereas private figures stand a much better chance. We won’t speculate on how this case might turn out, but the validity of her entire claim may turn on that argument.
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ACC Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 6th, 2012

  1. theACC.com: You probably already knew this, but the ACC released its All-ACC teams yesterday headlined by Tyler Zeller (unanimous) and Mike Scott (nearly unanimous). Tomorrow the league will announce its individual awards and we’ll release our own conference awards. The biggest snubs were Kendall Marshall (Harrison Barnes edged him out by two points to make the first team) and Bernard James (who somehow lost to Mason Plumlee).
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Well, he wasn’t snubbed but Mike Scott definitely wasn’t given his due by one or two voters. He finished two points (probably two second-team selections) from being a unanimous first-team selection. Props to Tim Mulholland for taking the only known offender, Caulton Tudor, to task for the omission. You’re welcome to choose Tyler Zeller as your Player of the Year. I waffled between him and Scott more times than I can count. But you can’t leave Scott off the first team. That’s just ridiculous. It’s almost as ridiculous as this headline: “Great Scott Sinks Terps in OT.”
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Tim Tucker sat down with John Swofford for a pretty interesting interview. For those keeping score at home, Swofford called college athletics a “business” twice during the conversation. He also reaffirmed his support for a four-team football playoff and keeping the NCAA tournament at 68 teams amidst discussion of the ACC’s new TV contract renegotiation and the recent NCAA violation issues. All in all, the interview gave a favorable impression of Swofford.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Luke DeCock looks at coaches’ “motivating moments.” Every coach has his own style: Mike Krzyzewski berates his team with a fire (and tongue) you’d never expect from his interview demeanor (or maybe it’s Krzyzewski interviews with a mild manner you’d never expect from his on-court persona); Roy Williams keeps things under control most of the time, but he loses his temper with the best of them. As NC State’s CJ Williams pointed out, “All coaches are pretty much the same [...] when it comes to yelling.”
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Harrison Barnes keeps a list. It’s a list of his goals shaped like an inverted pyramid with “National Championship” sitting at the top. This sort of story is the reason I never doubt that Barnes will have a long, successful professional career. I’m still not sure whether he’s a go-to guy or “just” a 10-year starter in the League, but someone who works this hard to reach his goals will reach many of them.

EXTRA: In semi-ACC-related news, Syracuse is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Charles Robinson and Pat Forde caught wind that the Orange have been playing team members who failed drug tests. There were at least 10 former players involved, and the NCAA is aware of the problem. I’m not sure what exactly could become of this, but certainly, it’s never good to associate your brand with drugs. Still, many of the infractions are beyond the NCAA’s statute of limitations.

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ACC Morning Five: 10.25.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 25th, 2011

  1. The Mikan Drill: Florida State‘s defense last season was excellent, but its offense nearly tipped the scales back the other way with its ineptitude. The Mikan Drill
    takes a look at the Seminoles’ offense with short video clips and diagrams to back up their analysis. Essentially, the ‘Noles did well in the post but very poorly on pick and rolls. Another key in the dysfunctional cog was the team’s inability to take care of the ball. Overall, a very informative piece on one of the most under-the-radar teams in the country coming into the 2011-12 season.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: First, let me give a shout-out to the high-quality pieces Duke Basketball Report has been putting out this offseason (unfortunately, it’s because its Blue Devil Tip-Off magazine didn’t raise the funds to get published, leaving lots of great articles looking for a home). Second, here’s a roundtable article looking at Duke basketball legend Bill Brill. Brill was a distinguished sportswriter who covered the Blue Devils for over 35 years. The interviews are with many ACC journalists who tell personal stories from Brill’s respected career. One of the more interesting anecdotes was that Brill unintentionally co-founded bracketology long before it was a staple in college basketball’s coverage — it’s worth a look.
  3. Testudo Times: Speaking of roundtables, Testudo Times has a great preview of Maryland‘s basketball season. Topics cover everything from predicted offensive style to conference realignment and everything in-between. The Terrapins are one of the more interesting teams in the ACC this season, as they lost quite a bit of size and production from last year’s squad (in addition to a certain hall of fame coach).
  4. Syracuse.com: In a talk with ESPN‘s Andy Katz last week, ACC coaches weighed in on conference realignment. The general consensus was that the conference should expand to 16 teams provided the two new teams fit well. NC State’s Mark Gottfried was the most adamant that the conference will expand, though Mike Krzyzewski has made it clear in the past that he supports going to a 16-team format with divisions. Not surprisingly, commissioner John Swofford evaded the question like the adept politician that he is.
  5. Kentucky Sports Radio: Duke legend Christian Laettner laced up his coaching shoes in Kentucky’s Rupp Arena last night for a Jimmy V fundraiser. Unfortunately, a recent number of Kentucky-related scrimmages led to a meager crowd. But the game was good enough to go to overtime, where Laettner’s “Villains” won the game despite pregame chemistry concerns about Duke’s Nolan Smith and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansborough playing for the same team. Laettner embraced the moment, perhaps his only in Rupp Arena, by wiping down the UK hardwood (see video below) and getting ejected late in the second half.

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ACC Realignment Politics

Posted by mpatton on October 10th, 2011

The Boston Globe‘s recent article “Expansion Was Power Move by the ACC” stirred a minor uproar on Twitter over the weekend largely for two reasons:

  1. Boston College changed the course of conference realignment by vetoing Connecticut as the second addition (which led to Pittsburgh‘s invitation), much like Virginia did with Syracuse in 2003.
  2. Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo stated, “TV – ESPN – is the one who told us what to do.”

The first point is huge. If true, Boston College, one of the most recent additions to the ACC that also sports a lukewarm fanbase in both basketball and football, managed to affect which schools received an ACC invitation. This is eerily similar to Virginia’s power play in 2003 when the Cavaliers threatened to pull out of the conference if it wouldn’t add Virginia Tech instead of Syracuse. The only differences: Virginia is a founding member, and (by DeFilippo’s account) the Eagles didn’t threaten to leave the conference. For the record, I still think Pittsburgh is a better fit for the ACC as I worry about Connecticut’s long term relevance once Jim Calhoun retires.

Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo

Credit: Wendy Maeda/Boston Globe staff

DeFilippo denied rumors that Duke shouted the loudest during expansion meetings and instead cited recent massive TV deals and an interest in increasing the conference’s “footprint” in the Northeast. This statement subtly implies that Boston College had more of an influence on conference realignment than Duke, which would be surprising to say the least. I do agree that TV contracts are at the center of everything, but the Northeast brings far more basketball fans than football fans (regardless of school). More interesting is the claim that the shift had more to do with football than basketball, as neither Pitt or Syracuse offers much consistency on the gridiron, but both are national basketball powers. All of these factors lead me to question DeFilippo’s recount of the events. That is not to say that he is lying, just exaggerating a little around the edges.

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Catching Our Breath: Conference Realignment Scenarios as of Tuesday Morning

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences and a frequent contributor.

With this weekend’s out-of-the-blue bombshell that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving the Big East behind in order to accept membership in the ACC, the wave of conference realignment that is sweeping the nation has reached critical mass. Even with last year’s moves turning the Pac-10 into the Pac-12, adding a twelfth team to the Big Ten (among other things), and this summer’s talk of Texas A&M bolting for the SEC, there was still a chance that all of this would settle down and we’d be looking at a conference landscape that mostly looked pretty similar. No more. While the Big 12 has been on a death watch for weeks now, all of a sudden the Big East has jumped its place in line and the conference is scrambling to maintain some sense of order while its member institutions look for soft landing spots.  And with A&M to the SEC seemingly an inevitability, and with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at least (if not Texas and Texas Tech as well) likely headed to the Pac-(fill-in-your-choice-of-numbers-here), the era of superconferences appears to be upon us. So, before things change again, let’s take a quick look around the nation at the conferences as they stand today, how they could change tomorrow and how that will effectively alter the college basketball landscape.

courtesy: The Football God

Big East

Today: TCU joins the conference next season (although apparently TCU and the Mountain West have had a conversation or two in recent days about how good they had things before the Big East got in the way), with Pittsburgh and Syracuse as of now bound to the conference for this year and the next two (with buyout negotiations likely still to be considered), putting the league at 17 basketball teams (nine in football) for 2012-13 and 2013-14, then down to 15 (seven in football) starting in 2014-15.

Tomorrow: Those numbers above are assuming that the ACC doesn’t snap up Connecticut and Rutgers (the two most mentioned names) and West Virginia isn’t able to find safe refuge as the 14th member of the SEC. In short, football in the Big East is in severe trouble, as are some of the historic rivalries in one of the nation’s premier college basketball conferences. If the ACC picks off a couple more Big East football programs, the conference has to start over more or less from scratch, with Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati left scrambling for a home. If there is a way for the Big East to stave off football extinction, it is likely at the hands of the death of the Big 12. If Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech take up with the Pacific Coast, maybe the Big East snaps up Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri, and can carry on as a (hopefully) rebranded league.

Basketball: Nevertheless, there could still be a strong basketball conference here, regardless of what happens to Big East football. If Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul, and Notre Dame want, they could maintain a pretty solid eight-team conference among themselves, (provided ND isn’t somehow pressured into joining the Big Ten), or even snap up a handful of teams from the Atlantic 10 (Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, etc.) and carry on that way. Still, while hoops fans can console themselves with the prospect of North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke and Pittsburgh matching up with each other on Semifinal Saturday of the ACC Tournament, the sad fact is that the spectacle that is the Big East Tournament at the Garden is about to take a major hit.

ACC

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Get Your Apps in Now: The ACC Bus Is Filling Up

Posted by rtmsf on September 19th, 2011

John Swofford must feel like the prettiest girl in school on this glorious Monday.  Not only did he receive a huge heap of slobbering attention from two of the more attractive gents in his class over the weekend (Mr. Pittsburgh and Mr. Syracuse), but like any good future Junior Leaguer, he’s letting everyone in the hallways know that he has numerous other options.  On Sunday during the announcement of two more Big East schools joining the ACC, Swofford alluded to the fact that a “double-digit” number of universities had already submitted applications to the ACC.  It’s a widely known secret that one of those applications hails from Storrs, Connecticut, but news released today begins to unravel who those other schools might be.  Would you be surprised if one of them doesn’t even have a major football program?  You shouldn’t:

Villanova is Confirmed as Another ACC Applicant (A. Lyons/Getty)

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said during a teleconference Sunday the league received more than 10 applications from schools hoping to join the league. Orlando Sentinel sources confirmed multiple Big East members applied to join the league, including Villanova.

That’s right.  The rats are all fleeing the sinking ship known as the Big East Conference, and even schools with no FBS (I-A) football programs are taking their shots.  VU, coming off a national semifinalist season in 2010,  has an excellent FCS (I-AA) football program, but it would seem a major leap of faith on the part of any BCS-level conference to pull a burgeoning program out of its hat when there are so many others already established.  Still, it clearly shows that schools are scrambling for anything right now, fearful of being relegated to the also-ran conferences that will weigh down the entire school’s reputation and cachet throughout the collegiate sporting landscape.

So who else might have sent its application into 4512 Weybridge Lane in Greensboro over the last 72 hours?  Let’s play speculation theater:

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ACC Rediscovers Its Roots: A Pre-emptive Strike Ensures Basketball Dominance

Posted by rtmsf on September 17th, 2011

In a conference realignment move that can only fairly be described as pre-emptive, expeditious, and quite possibly transcendent, the ACC is reportedly on the verge of adding Big East stalwarts Syracuse and Pittsburgh to its existing 12-team configuration. According to published reports, a vote by the league presidents could come as soon as Sunday, and CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish tweeted earlier today that his source stated that the move is “done.” This is simply a phenomenal turn of events in a realignment summer that has focused almost exclusively on the Big 12 and whether its Texas schools might end up moving west, east, or sticking where they are. The transition will bring two of the top 15 or 20 national college basketball programs into the league while simultaneously forcing the blindsided Big East to scramble for its very existence.

Welcome to the ACC

We wrote last year that the ACC might best situate itself among conference masters of the universe by again connecting with its basketball roots. The league was built on the shoulders of bloody Tobacco Road battles among Frank McGuire at North Carolina, Everett Case at NC State, Vic Bubas at Duke, and Bones McKinney at Wake Forest when the schools were all located within a stone’s throw of each other (Wake has since moved 80 miles west). Roundball was the essence of the ACC long before football television dollars started driving otherwise rational folks to do crazy things.

If you talk to longtime ACC fans, those who were around for the 8-team configuration through most of its history, there’s a general sentiment that the league lost its soul when it expanded for football, first in 1991 with Florida State, later with Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech in 2004, and Boston College in 2005. And although nobody can quite put their finger on it as to why or how, there’s a corresponding feeling that somehow, someway, the expansion also hurt the quality of basketball played in the league. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was no question among basketball faithful nationwide that the ACC consistently played the highest quality basketball of any league in America. Not only were programs like Duke and North Carolina dominant (as they are now), but there was a verifiable depth of quality programs to support the notion.

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Crazy Talk: The ACC Should Focus Expansion on Basketball, Not Football

Posted by rtmsf on May 25th, 2010

Gerry Floyd is a longtime ACC fan and guest poster who feels strongly that the conference needs to get back to its roots in the next wave of expansion mania. 

With the seemingly constant banter about the Big 10′s imminent conference expansion, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford has said that he will not be `the aggressor’ during a summer in which potential moves will forever change the landscape of college athletics.  This is a big mistake.  Swofford needs to step up and take expansion by the horns.  With the potential of conference realignment looming from coast to coast, it only makes sense for the ACC to be proactive with these changes.  But instead of letting football dollars guide the decision-making, Swofford has a golden opportunity to come at the inevitable from a different perspective and instead alter the college basketball landscape for the better.

Commissioner Swofford Should Be Proactive Here

It is understandable that the driving force behind every conference expansion is football, and rightfully so.  College football brings in huge amounts of revenue that are not only used for athletic purposes but also for academic research opportunities at those universities.  This is very important for every ACC member institution and it makes sense that they should try to harness as much revenue as they can so their institutions can flourish.  But instead of focusing on expanding (or not expanding) for college football why not take a different approach to the usual football expansion?  To do this, the ACC must step back and take a look at the ACC’s overall product.  The conference’s primary business advantage over every other conference in America is its rich basketball tradition that includes a high level of competitiveness, passionate basketball fanbases and a strong presence in the national media regarding the sport.  Ask anyone in California or Michigan the first thing they think of when hearing “ACC,” and the immediate response will be “basketball.”   Therefore, instead of scouring for leftover football revenue in an oversaturated football market, the ACC should stay true to its roots and take a stranglehold on the college basketball market.

Every conference wants to be considered foremost a ‘football conference’ because of the amount of money that the sport brings in, and the expansion of the ACC in 2003 to include Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) was a brilliant maneuver that brought the ACC a football conference championship and all the revenue that goes with it.  But the truth is the ACC is in its best year the fourth or fifth strongest BCS football conference in America and expansion isn’t likely to change that fact (the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12/Pac-10 hybrids would likely get stronger).  Since 2003, the league has only won one of its BCS bowls (Virginia Tech over Cincinnati in 2008), and the last four BCS bowls with the lowest television ratings all featured an ACC team.   On the other hand, in the seven years since expansion the ACC has had three national basketball championships and six Final Four appearances.  Business as usual on the hardwood.

The ACC has long represented the essence of college basketball; it is the conference filled with thoroughbred athletes and teams that every other league still measures itself by annually.  But since the latest football expansion the league has lost some of that advantage.  The ACC Tournament was once the “hottest ticket” in the country, but now the tournament is just another ticket before the NCAA Tournament begins a week later.  This could be due to Duke’s tournament dominance over the past decade, or (more likely) the front office in Greensboro turning its back on the one sport that makes the ACC marketable.  The goal of the ACC should not be to pressure football into a basketball-rich conference but to expand on its quality attributes in college basketball.  Any expansion should be done to enhance the ACC’s overall television market, seeking to improve its college basketball image and competitiveness without losing any revenue or market share in college football.

See, There's a Divison Right There

Please understand that the next proposal is not suggesting that the ACC should expand before the Big 10, but the league should be open to expansion ideas and proactive in considering conference realignments.  By sitting back and waiting, the ACC as we know it runs the risk of either become irrelevant or extinct.  Assuming the Big Ten doesn’t, the ACC should therefore extend invitations to West Virginia, Syracuse, Connecticut and Pittsburgh (Louisville would also be another viable candidate).  By adding these four teams the ACC will finally gain much of the New England television market that Boston College was unsuccessful in delivering.  With a sixteen-team league that stretches up and down the entire eastern seaboard (and the tens of millions of people living in that footprint), an opportunity would arise for the ACC to pursue a television network much like the Big Ten Network.  Most importantly from a brand perspective, this type of expansion would provide growth in the level of basketball competition while suffering little to no decline in football competition.

After expansion the sixteen institutions should be separated into two divisions (North & South) and four subdivisions (for example:  North Atlantic, North Coastal, South Atlantic, and South Coastal):

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