Potential Changes Coming To The ACC And NCAA


In a recent interview with David Teel of the Hampton Roads Daily Press, ACC Commissioner John Swofford revealed a number of potential conference changes and also speculated on the possibility of a new division being created in the NCAA. If you are interested in the ACC or NCAA sports in general, I highly suggest you read the entire article linked above. Since the article has a ton of information, let's work through it piece by piece.

The first bit of news was in regards to the ACC basketball tournament. Ever since the ACC's most recent expansion, there has been quite a bit of discussion around the possibility of the conference's basketball tournament moving to New York City. Several conference coaches have voiced their support for the move so it isn't all that surprising that commissioner Swofford choose to address the topic.

“From everything we can gather talking to people in and around New York, Brooklyn generally speaking is very trendy, very hot and attractive right now and only is projected to become more so. Part of that is related to Barclays Center. There’s a subway stop that empties right at the building itself. There are projected hotels and so forth to be built, restaurants.”

One thing you may have noticed is that Swofford talked specifically about the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and not Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. As it stand currently, both arenas already have contracts with other conferences. The Big East's contract with MSG runs through 2026 while the Atlantic 10 is set to play in the Barclays Center through 2016. It should be noted that there has been some speculation that the Garden has caveats in its contract that would allow it to dump the Big East if certain ticket sale thresholds and other standards are not met. Those rumors, however, have not been confirmed. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Big East's contract with MSG, the A10's relatively short contract length with the Barclays Center, and the fact that the A10 has lost a lot due to conference realignment, I think it is likely that we see the ACC end up in Brooklyn in 2016.

Moving the tournament to New York City would represent a radical shift in the ACC's mindset. The conference basketball tournament has only left the state of North Carolina 12 times in its entire 60 year history and has never been held outside of the state in consecutive seasons. While I respect the ACC’s history in North Carolina, I do think this move will really benefit the conference as a whole. If the ACC wants to claim NYC as an important part of its footprint and truly elevate the status of its conference tournament, then it needs to have its tournament in the basketball mecca of the world. Playing the conference tournament in the largest media market in North America and having the media there get behind and embrace the conference could really put the ACC on a whole new level perception wise.

The next topic commissioner Swofford covered had to do with ACC bowl revenue distribution. Here is the run down from the Teel article.

First, the conference will designate more money to bowl-bound schools to cover travel expenses to the game.

Second, bowl ticket obligations will likely be centralized in the league office rather than handled by individual schools. That way, if any school(s) do not sell their allotment, the ACC will pay the remainder from the postseason pool.

Third, teams that win the ACC championship and/or qualify for the new college football playoff could receive significant bonuses from the revenue pool before the remainder is shared evenly among the membership

If I had to guess, I'd say that all three of the above statements are concessions demanded by the conference's football schools. The conference is also probably keen to avoid another ACC championship game fiasco after FSU reported a loss of about $440,000 in ticket expenses from this year's game. From a UofL fan's perspective, all of these changes should be good for the Cards. The first two suggestions would remove most of the financial burden from the individual schools while the last idea would create a nice incentive for winning the conference.

Notre Dames' involvement in the ACC football post-season was also discussed. If you were not already aware, the Irish will be eligible to be selected for any ACC bowl (minus the Orange Bowl slot) as long as its overall record is within one of the bowl-eligible ACC schools. In terms of post season revenue, Notre Dame will receive none of the ACC’s playoff money and only one-fifteenth of the league’s non-playoff bowl revenue. However, in years when Notre Dame is invited to one of the six playoff-level bowls (Orange, Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Chick-fil-A, Cotton), their one-fifteenth is void.

Commissioner Swofford also speculated about future changes to the NCAA and about a possible separation at the Division 1 level. Here is the five paragraph long quote.

“I think the next six months or so are going to be important to the NCAA and how it addresses the process and governance. My view is that presidential control and oversight is entirely appropriate and necessary. But I think it needs to be at the highest level and related to the most fundamental aspects of what the enterprise is all about.

I think what we’ve lost, in my opinion, is that the real pros and practitioners on a day-to-day basis, meaning the athletic directors, are not as involved and engaged in the decision-making and legislative process as we need them to be. And that’s not the ADs’ fault. That’s the fault of the governance structure we now have. You need people that live this day-to-day. You need people that understand the nuances. …

We’ve had over a decade to kind of evaluate the current structure and I don’t think it’s worked as well as we’d hoped it would. Sometimes you just find that out, and when you find that out, you have to adjust it and change it. I don’t know if we go back to the future so to speak and one school, one vote. But there’s a lot to be said for some of the fundamental aspects of that because it forced people institutionally, and ADs and faculty reps, to be involved in the process. …

Do we need another division? Is that wise or not? I think it’s something that should be considered and I think it will be. I think there’s a feeling right now among those of us in the five power conferences, let’s try to bring change in a positive way under the NCAA umbrella. You still get people, and it’s usually people on the outside, saying why don’t you go off and break away and do your own thing and form your own organization. But I don’t think we’re at that point.

And that would be complicated. You’d have to duplicate a lot of what the NCAA has (in place). Then you run into all kinds of complications about what you do with the basketball tournament. There are schools that don’t play football at this level that are prominent in terms of the basketball tournament. … (Breaking away) would be a pretty selfish thing to do, and I don’t think the frustration level has reached that point."

Revamping the NCAA governing structure and including athletic directors in the decision making process would both be good things in my opinion. As someone who works in academia, I can tell you first hand that most university administrators don't understand the issues facing college athletics or how complicated the NCAA actually is. Involving the people who deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis should help streamline the process and remove some of the needless complexity of the NCAA.

However, it is the last two paragraphs of the quote that I find most interesting. Both Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and SEC commissioner Mike Slive have openly criticized the NCAA's governing structure and suggested that a new division be created. Even NCAA president Mark Emmert seems to be on board with the idea. Such a division may allow schools to pay $2,000 stipends to student athletes and move to a "full cost of tuition" scholarship model. The new division proposal could simply be sabre rattling to get the smaller schools to pass rule changes that the big schools want but have been unable to get passed. Alternatively, it could be a way for the Power Five conferences (the Big 10, SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12) to leave the bottom half of FBS behind or it could be used to cull the ranks of Division 1 (i.e. remove programs in conferences like the MAAC, MEAC, Atlantic Sun, SWAC, etc).

What are your thoughts on all of these potential changes?

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