Their motivation? Money, of course, real or imagined, from media rights, and potential access to the four-team national football playoff expected in 2014.
As this drama has unfolded, volumes have been spoken and written about the ACC, much of it misleading or false and ignorant of the conference’s history.
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MYTH: Long a basketball power, the ACC is not committed to football.
FACTS: Early in his tenure as commissioner, Gene Corrigan made football his top priority, and in 1990 he convinced the league’s eight members to add Florida State and Bobby Bowden’s renowned football program.
This at a time when ACC basketball ruled. Duke was in the midst of a nine-year run that included seven Final Fours and two national championships (1991 and ’92). North Carolina wasn’t far behind – the Tar Heels won Dean Smith’s second national title in 1993 – and Georgia Tech joined Duke in the 1990 Final Four.
How proud was the ACC of its football upgrade? Well, during the conference’s annual preseason media barnstorming bus tour in 1991, it arranged for us to jet west for the Pigskin Classic between Florida State and Brigham Young in Anaheim, Calif.
Never mind that the Seminoles weren’t scheduled to compete in the ACC until 1992. They were preseason No. 1, and the conference wanted to introduce them to league reporters, and vice-versa.
John Swofford succeeded Corrigan as commissioner, and in 2003 and ’04 he shepherded an expansion that no matter how awkward and political had one goal: upgrade football and grow membership to 12, the minimum required by the NCAA to stage a conference championship game.
MYTH: Charter members and basketball icons Duke and North Carolina exert undue influence over ACC policy.
FACTS: Were this true, Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College would not be in the conference.
League bylaws required at least seven of nine votes for expansion approval. The tally was 7-2, with Duke and North Carolina opposed.
The expansion ringleaders were then-Florida State athletic director Dave Hart, now at Tennessee, and then-Georgia Tech AD Dave Braine, now retired. The Seminoles and Yellow Jackets were the ACC’s most junior members, further debunking the notion of an old guard keeping the conference in the dark ages.
Duke, by the way, also voted against expansion in 1990, along with Maryland. But when the “concept” measure passed 6-2, a separate ballot was conducted on Florida State. That vote was unanimous.
One final note on the Duke-UNC axis: Time was when ACC basketball earned far more than football from television rights fees, and the conference’s best programs received the most money.
Corrigan rightfully thought the ACC needed equitable revenue sharing, but you-know-who had to agree first. Sure enough, Duke athletic director Tom Butters and his North Carolina counterpart, Swofford, signed off on the deal.
MYTH: Last fall’s vote to add Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC was a concession to basketball when better football options were available.