Chat time: The future of the ACC, now that it's locked itself in

Andy Lyons

Louisville grad Mark Ennis and ACC aficionado Martin Rickman chat about the grant of media rights, racquetball, pleated pants, and other topics relevant to the ACC and college football as a whole.

Martin: Well here we are, and it looks like the ACC is in better shape than ever before during the realignment games. The grant of media rights guarantees a whole bunch of cash to the teams that stay, and it looks as though the solidarity pact was more than just a fraternity pledge. What does this move mean? And how (if at all), as an incoming member, does it solidify that joining the ACC was the right choice?

Mark: Well, to be fair, the ACC wasn't really a choice for Louisville. Louisville was a choice for the ACC. With the benefit of absolute hindsight, winding up in the ACC is the best thing that could've happened to Louisville. A conference with academic neighbors better than Louisville is or will be for some time, a conference that has all of its current sports, a conference that's located in the places where Louisville has historically drawn its players (the Southeast, Florida), the nation's best basketball conference, and a conference that is in the cool kids club for college football is exactly what Louisville needed.

The move means, narrowly, that this is the ACC for the next decade. No qualifying statements needed when discussing the league. It also means the other power conferences are basically locked in now too. We might get to go back to talking about sports in the summers instead of airports and the size of media markets.

Martin: Well that's no fun now, Mark, is it? I liked debating hotels and restaurants and coaches taking jabs at other cities. It felt like Twitter. But I like how you put it: the next decade. What feels right about this is the ACC is being proactive again. It kind of pushed conference realignment in taking those Big East teams, it added Cuse and Pitt later, it added Notre Dame and Louisville based on what it wanted and not as a reactionary move. For all the heat Swofford takes, he calls his own shots. It doesn't necessarily matter whether he's right or wrong; he's making moves for the ACC, not as a result of what other conferences are doing. Losing Maryland still hurts, but that was Maryland's decision, not a result of something the ACC did.

So you really think the power conferences are set? Or will the SEC go and grab Virginia Tech and then set the dominos in motion once again?

Mark: I never thought 16-team conferences was going to happen, and with the grant of rights, I just can't see anyone really left that adds enough value for conferences to move on them. But I will say this, to my brothers in the struggle at UConn, USF, and Cincinnati, I hope that somehow, in some way, things work out for you to wind up in a better situation than you're in now.

As for Swofford, now being a fan of a team benefitting from his actions, it's not difficult to sit back and see that the man is good at what he does. He comes out at the end of conference realignment with his conference completely locked in, a television network in the works, Florida State and Clemson getting back to top 5-to-10 status, and without question the best men's and women's basketball league in the country. I still really marvel that he was able to pull off getting everyone to sign off on this grant of rights.

Martin: Especially with some guys out there playing racquetball and golf and stuff. Sure helps to have Docusign and everything.

Mark: As a quick aside, is racquetball the ultimate stuff-white-people-like?

Martin: Here is the thing about racquetball, it is awesome and it isn't super hard on your limbs. It's just good exercise. It takes like no money in equipment and very limited space. We talk about baseball dying a slow death because it's so expensive and requires so much maintenance and space. Hell, racquetball should be the game of the future.

Speaking of the future, and of Clemson and Florida State, what does this mean for them? Are they stuck? Are they happy? I feel as though there is a disconnect between the Tallahassee media, the people in power at Florida State and the fan base. I never really know what is and isn't felt down there. I do know Bud Elliott over at Tomahawk Nation can stir up discontent in a matter of words, and all of a sudden there are 2,000 comments on how the Noles are getting a raw deal. He's a wizard. Even if he doesn't know who Trina is.

Mark: The short answer is yes, Clemson and FSU are stuck, because smart people in their leadership voted to be stuck. As for why there's a population of fans that are upset about it, I will be honest, after living through the brutal murder of the Big East, I just can't make myself feel any sympathy for the complaining. Rationally, I just don't see the argument for special treatment, either, for a couple of reasons:

  1. The ACC just finished carrying FSU through the gross end of the Bobby Bowden era, during which Georgia Tech and even your beloved Wake Forest won the conference. Is NOW the time to be acting like they've been the biggest player?
  2. Conferences that, as a whole, are worth more, still treat their best properties equally in terms of the way money and such is distributed. As I said earlier this week, if Florida can share with Vandy equally, and Ohio State can share with Purdue evenly, then FSU can share with Wake For- ... I mean ... Virginia! ... evenly.
  3. Engaging in any kind of uneven split is exactly how you calcify teams in struggles. How do you expect Wake or Boston College or Miami as of late to get better, if you tilt the money that comes to the conference away from them?


Martin: Yeah but @thekeyplay and I were discussing this recently: what if you make it merit-based? What if you chop a certain amount of the pot equally and then the rest goes in tiers based on how you perform?

Let's say a team makes a bowl, another team wins the league and goes to a BCS bowl, and a few teams go 3-9. The teams that do the best get extra money. That way there's no prestige factor involved. It's strictly on how many wins you have in a given year. Power dynamics are always shifting. Otherwise if we had split the money based on how valuable a school was, Miami would be cashing huge checks from something they did a decade ago so Al Golden could buy every J.Crew tie in existence.

Mark: I think if you do that, you're just sowing the seeds of the stuff that killed the way the Big 12 was, with the notion that the league only did what Texas wanted. Besides, schools have budgets and such to meet, and I think making it merit-based would be crushing to non-revenue sports that, unfortunately, survive on the life that football and basketball breathe into them. I mean, imagine the viability of say, women's lacrosse being impacted by Maryland losing four quarterbacks and having to start a linebacker at quarterback for a game. Is that what we want?

Now, the best argument against Miami getting more money is not that they willingly sat out the postseason. No, the best argument against Miami getting more money is that Golden wears pleated pants. PLEATED PANTS, MARTIN.

Martin: Look, I'm not fighting it. I'm the guy championing the Atlantic Socialist Conference. I think the league's wins should be divided equally, and we get to rotate each team in the Orange Bowl so everyone gets a turn and gets to see how fun it is. I like it when everyone is nice to each other, whether they wear pleated pants or not.

Mark: I prefer the Obama's-America model where the other 13 teams redistribute the wins that would've gone to Boston College.

Martin: What the hell is a Boston College? Did you just make that up?

Mark: It's a hockey academy, as far as I know.

Martin: Well I'm glad to have them then hockey is a fun sport. Have you ever been on a zamboni?

Mark: I grew up in Florida, and I can't skate, so hockey isn't my thing.

Martin: So what is next for the ACC? Aside from finally getting to enjoy Jim Boeheim with Roy and Coach K and getting everything that is Pitt? And all of us rooting for Teddy Bridgewater, U.S. Senator 2032?

Mark: I think it's all about football and somehow getting the league to be viewed as on par with the other four leagues. Theoretically, there's no reason that a league that has Florida State, Miami, Clemson, and Virginia Tech (and hopefully Louisville will continue its upward trajectory) can't be a league that's every bit as good as the non-SEC leagues. I harbor no fantasies that the league catches the SEC, but it can be as good or better than the Big Ten or Big 12, right? I mean, most of the league is in the South.

One thing I've always wondered is, can a league really undo a negative rep? It seemed like the Big East was always being crushed no matter what it did, good or bad. Is the ACC sorta stuck, football-wise? Or do you think things can turn around over time? And if so, what needs to happen?

Martin: Well, winning more bowl games would certainly help. That and the best teams not falling flat midseason. This is almost a situation where parity hurts the league as a whole. We need down years from a few schools to coincide with one great year from, say, our friends the Noles, so we at least have a national title contender. Personally, I like being a laughingstock, but that is because laughter is important. But winning and stuff is fun too.

Mark: Maybe Swofford could implement the old biblical laws about planting and harvesting and every seven years some teams have to go 0-12 to make the other teams feel better. A Sabbath rest from losing for the rest of the league.

Martin: That would certainly help the cause. And the cause is everything, Mark.

Mark: #goacc

Martin: What about the ACC are you most excited about?

Mark: I think the basketball league is really going to be a lot like this year of Big Ten basketball, where there are matchups of top 10-to-15 teams every week, sometimes multiple times in a week. I'm really looking forward to that.

Also, personally, I'm excited about some of the non-revenue sports that not a lot of people spend much time thinking about. Louisville baseball will really benefit from the ACC move.

And personally, the ACC Twitter bros. Can't wait for that.

Martin: Don't forget about Bojangles.

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