Sunday, May 11, 2008

Part #1: Atlantic Swofford: Raiders of the Lost Dream

In the first of four parts BCF will look at the current staus of the ACC expansion that hit the college football landscape five years ago this month. This series will examine the biggest money story in college football during this young century focusing on the current status of the ACC and Big East in part #1 and #2, #3 will look at the predictions from 2003 and part #4 will foolishly look ahead.

Five years ago the college football world was rocked by the hostile raid by the
Atlantic Coast Conference of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the
Big East. In a move that is looking as questionable as the speculation in real estate a year ago the move the Atlantic Coast Conference may have serious regrets about the move.

"Are you better off today than you were four (five) years ago?" A political
candidate will ask that question but perhaps that should be the query posed to
John Swofford by college football fans in general and those those that pledge
there precious fan energy to the teams of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Here in 2008 we can clearly see that the expansion of the ACC has not resulted
in the superpower of college football and basketball that was expected. While Duke has rarely been a force in college football it is now arguably the weakest BCS program*, the conference has few high profile wins.

As pointed out in No spring in the step of ACC football

The ACC hasn't taken off like many expected once expansion brought in BC, Tech and Miami. Down periods by the Hurricanes and Florida State haven't helped. But the door has been open for former power Clemson to step forward, and Tommy Bowden's teams often falter in their biggest games...

...Conference members went 50-47-1 (.515) versus ranked non-ACC teams in the 1990s, but are just 25-57 (.305) this decade.

The plan was for a football conference to rival the SEC, or to be in football what the ACC was in basketball, but without a BCS win in the current century the conference seems as toothless as Y2K. The plan also called for a high profile, well attended, money machine, championship game and a second team in a BCS game but neither have panned out. The conference has received a lucrative contract from Disney sports and a range of respectable (read the as high payout) bowl games, yet, genuine respect for ACC football is still elusive.

While all the expected benefits have not materailized the move to twelve teams has had a few unwelcome consequences: first is the perception of weakness in the basketball end of the business with only five and four teams being invited to the big dance (strong at the top but weaker overall); the loss of playing home and home games with all other memebers in basketball; the creation of rivals that fans do not always care about, FSU v. UM, UVA v. VT make sense but do Terps fans know their rival; Who's Atalntic and who's Coastal?; Playing a bowl game on the Smurf turf in December is a reward for wiining? None of these are deal breaker, just annoyances.

This is not to say that the the ACC expansion has been a complete Daimler-Chrysler type failure. Unlike the business world where quick results are often the measure of success the ACC is still on the monetary upside of this deal and while revenues are increasing most are more than will to ignore any faults in the plan.

*(It would interesting to set up a tournment with Duke, Syracuse, Northwestern/Minnesota, Baylor, Vanderbilt, and two at large teams to settle this on the field.)


Blogger Zemek said...


Swofford is counting on market penetration and diversity (provided primarily by Boston and Miami) to ultimately make this a plus for the ACC. By getting more cosmopolitan markets to follow what has been a primarily Southern conference, Swofford hoped to create a revenue colossus even more than a sports colossus. (This is consistent with Swofford's view of the BCS as healthy; it's not the championships, but the money coming into conference coffers.)

What Swofford and the ACC ignored in their hubris was the simple reality that the ACC has niche schools, and niche schools are hard to shake from their identity once it's been established. Florida St. is a football school, Duke and UNC basketball schools, with most of the other ACC charter members being hoops schools as well. Trying to "football-ize" the conference with Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech had a certain degree of logic to it, but the move has served to pressure FSU, which gave the ACC regular exposure to and participation in big-time bowl games.

The other thing Swofford overlooked is that increased and lengthened travel--with Boston and Miami now being ACC markets--creates more parity on the playing field.

We'll see where we are in 5 years, but for now, it's nice to see Swofford's BCS arrogance being tempered by internal realities such as the paltry attendance of the ACC Championship Game.

Matt Zemek
College Football News

1:36 PM  

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