Each May, ACC officials convene for the conference’s spring meetings. Substantive issues are debated, enduring decisions made. But the event is also an opportunity to exhale, enjoy a beverage of choice and bask in the accommodations of the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla.
Safe to say more R&R will be had this year than last.
Less than a week before the 2012 gathering, then-Florida State Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard criticized the ACC’s new media contract with ESPN — the ink was barely dry — and said the Seminoles needed to see “what the Big 12 might have to offer.”
So much for the “routine” meetings that Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage had said he anticipated.
Next month’s ACC retreat — May 13-16 — figure to be far closer to Littlepage’s expectation, this courtesy of Monday’s news that the conference’s 15 current and future members have agreed to a media grant of rights.
The arrangement essentially prohibits schools from leaving the ACC through the 2026-27 academic year — an institution intent on such a move would forfeit approximately $300 million in television revenue and be unable to recoup it in a new conference home.
But even with stability assured, the league Virginia and Virginia Tech call home has plenty of work ahead, and much of it likely will arise in Amelia.
* Collaborating with ESPN on a cable channel dedicated to ACC sports. I hesitate to mention this first, because fans expecting such a channel in the near-term likely will be disappointed.
As Clemson athletic director Dan Radokovich explained to Sports Talk S.C., on Monday, these projects take years to complete, and now that ESPN knows with certainty what the ACC’s long-term landscape is, discussions can intensify.
The conference’s demographics, which stretch from Boston to Miami and wander west to Louisville and Notre Dame (think Chicago market and national following), certainly provide the households needed to make such a venture work. But the chore of getting a channel onto various cable systems is far easier said than done.
* Exploring future bowl partnerships. With major college football embarking on a four-team playoff in 2014, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, Southeastern Conference and others are reworking their postseason deals.
For example, the ACC’s top destination after the Orange Bowl has been the Chick-fil-A Bowl. But the Atlanta-based game is likely to join the Orange in the playoff rotation, leaving the conference to find another bowl for its No. 2 or 3 team.
Commissioner John Swofford has appointed a committee of athletic directors, including Virginia Tech’s Jim Weaver, to study bowl options. With Notre Dame eligible for non-playoff bowls affiliated with the ACC, those options should improve.
One bowl likely to team with the ACC is the Yankee Stadium-based Pinstripe. With Syracuse, Pitt, Boston College and Notre Dame in the conference’s mix, the connection is a natural. The Pinstripe has matched teams from the Big East and Big 12, and the ACC probably would replace the Big East.
* It’s unclear whether the spring meetings will produce consensus on where to stage any or all of the ACC basketball tournaments from 2016-21, but the topic will be addressed.
The paramount question is whether the event travels north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time, to New York City. The new Big East appears intent on retaining the old Big East’s Madison Square Garden home, and if so, that would leave the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn as the ACC’s lone Big Apple option.
The Barclays is booked through the 2017 season with the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Given the conference’s scope, fans accustomed to the ACC tournament “belonging” in North Carolina are advised to adjust to the new world. Greensboro and Charlotte will get their shares, but the tournament will, and needs to, branch out
Those are just some of the talking points expected at Amelia Island. The league is stable and strong, and Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame should make it stronger. But no conference, not even that football Goliath SEC, can afford complacency.
To avoid any satisfaction, all Swofford need do is remind folks: No ACC team has reached basketball’s Final Four since Duke’s 2010 national champions, and no football team from the league has played for the national title since Florida State in January 2001.
That needs to change, and with Monday’s grant of rights, Swofford and others are steering the conference in the right direction.
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