With the ACC’s television future secured this week, the focus of next week’s annual spring meetings becomes the conference’s position on restructuring the Bowl Championship Series.
That was the word Wednesday from commissioner John Swofford during a 30-minute phone interview. Much of our discussion centered on the league’s new 15-year, $3.86-billion contract with ESPN, a windfall that gooses each school’s average annual media revenue from $12.9 million to $17.1 million, a bump of more than 30 percent.
But as the interview concluded, I asked Swofford about next week’s conference gathering at Amelia Island, Fla.
First things first: While undoubtedly discussed informally, expansion and conference realignment are not on the agenda.
That issue is “not on anybody’s front burner in our league right now,” Swofford said.
And it won’t be until/unless Notre Dame expresses an interest. Otherwise, the ACC is quite content to grow to 14 when Syracuse and Pittsburgh arrive, presumably in 2013-14.
Recent Internet gossip about Florida State and Clemson bailing for the Big 12 may be fodder for a subsequent post, but the short story there is: Relax. Ain’t gonna happen.
“There will be a lot of discussion about the BCS and what our position should be,” Swofford said of the spring meetings.
Swofford personally favors a four-team “mini-playoff,” weaved into the existing bowl structure. Others advocate campus sites for the semifinals. As someone with a serial mistrust of bowl officials, I lean toward the campus model but also recognize the logistical headaches that could arise staging such an event in a small town like Blacksburg or Manhattan, Kan.
But the primary BCS issue to be resolved is how to select the four playoff teams. By committee? Modified BCS standings? Conference champions only?
Winner of the last six BCS titles, the Southeastern Conference opposes the champions-only model, witness last season’s championship game between SEC West Division rivals Alabama and LSU. A weaker league such as the ACC, which has produced only one top-four BCS team in the last decade (Virginia Tech in 2007), likely will prefer champs-only.
“The devil is in the details,” Swofford said, “and we’re getting ready to find out how much devil is there.”
Once conferences determine their positions this spring, Swofford, his fellow commissioners and a presidential oversight committee chaired by Virginia Tech’s Charles Steger will gather this summer to finalize postseason football’s future, starting with the 2014-15 cycle.
“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk yet,” Swofford said of the four-team playoff. “It’s going to be an interesting couple of months for the BCS.”
Other topics set for Amelia Island discussion, Swofford said, are the conference tournament formats for men’s and women’s basketball and baseball once Syracuse and Pittsburgh arrive.
Fourteen teams make for an awkward tournament, and when the Big East was at that number from 2001-04, only 12 teams qualified. The 14-team Atlantic 10 has operated similarly the past six seasons.
But Swofford has said the ACC wants to include everyone. That means lengthening the tournament from four to five days, unless the conference attempts to shoehorn six opening-round games into one day, with those winners joining the top two seeds in the quarterfinals.
I like my hoops as much as anyone, but a six-game day might require cots, pillows and/or caffeine IVs in the press room.
The ACC baseball tournament features only eight of the league’s 12 teams. Retaining that format would exclude five of 13 teams — Pitt plays baseball, Syracuse does not.
Check back next week for developments.
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