ACC commissioner John Swofford made news at the conference’s preseason basketball gabfest Wednesday.
Very good news for those of us who appreciate the league’s historic sense of equity.
Of most interest nationally, Swofford dismissed chatter of Notre Dame joining the ACC for all sports other than football.
“We're an all-in, revenue-equal conference,” Swofford said here at the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton. “That's very basic to us. That's what works for us. ... I think going forward we will continue to consider equal revenue sharing and full membership or no membership (important) in our conference. I don't see that changing. ”
Notre Dame clings to football independence and annual games against Michigan, Southern California, Purdue and Navy like a cub clings to Mama Bear. But the Irish compete in the Big East for other sports, and with that conference more unstable than the San Andreas Fault, speculation is rampant about them hunting a new league home.
“I'm concerned, there's no question about it,” Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey told the Chicago Tribune recently. “The Big East has been great for us. That connection back to the East for our basketball program is very important. Playing in that corridor back there has been very important for us. …
“I hope we can keep the Big East together. If not, we need something in the East. I've told (athletic director) Jack (Swarbrick) that.”
The Big East is about to lose Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, while West Virginia and Louisville are mentioned frequently as possible Big 12 targets. It’s likely to add Houston, SMU and Central Florida.
ACC membership would allow Notre Dame to retain that Eastern connection, not to mention align academically with the likes of Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, etc. But the Irish would have to bring their storied football program, which generates more than $10 million annually in television revenue.
“I think the strength of the ACC has been its academics, its integrity and its equal (distribution) of income,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “I would not want any member that had an outside game.”
Krzyzewski’s boss, Blue Devils athletic director Kevin White, is a former Notre Dame AD. He’s also a member of the ACC’s expansion committee, an obvious link between the parties.
Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage agrees with Swofford and Krzyzewski.
“It’s a difficult thing for me to feel that helps our conference,” he told me recently about the prospect of partial Notre Dame membership. “Again, a guiding principle of the conference is that we’re all in it together, we’re all in. … I would just have personal reservations.”
Good for the ACC. Absent football, what would Notre Dame bring to the conference besides a sense of entitlement? The ACC already is stocked with premier programs in men’s and women’s basketball, and most Olympic sports.
So if the Irish want all in, the ACC will leave the light on for them and then find a 16th, likely Connecticut. Otherwise, no hard feelings and have a nice life.
Swofford’s other news item Wednesday was about the ACC basketball tournament. Whenever Syracuse and Pitt negotiate their exit from the Big East, the ACC will stand at 14 schools, a very awkward tournament number.
Indeed, to include all teams at a central venue would most likely require adding a fifth day to the event. But Swofford prefers that to keeping the tournament at 12 teams and four days and excluding two schools.
The Big East excluded two from its tournament when the conference operated at 14 teams for four years earlier this decade – Virginia Tech was among the outcasts three of those years. And the ACC includes only eight teams in its baseball tournament.
“I think the sense of the group is ... it is important that all 14 be there” at the basketball tournament, Swofford said.
Krzyzewski, the coach who seems most engaged in realignment issues, concurs on the 14-team tournament and said with the addition of Syracuse and Pitt, “we’ve taken the reins of being No. 1 in basketball. If you’re No. 1 in (either football or basketball), you’ve got leverage.”
Krzyzewski also believes expansion has cemented ACC membership, precluding defections to rivals such as the Southeastern Conference or Big Ten.
“We have basically told the world, ‘We’re strong,’” Krzyzewski said. “Why would anyone want to leave strength?”
Swofford also sees the league as stable.
“When I sit around our table with our presidents and athletic directors, I see nothing but full commitment to each other and to the league,” he said. “We've had one team (South Carolina in 1971) leave the conference in close to 60 years. So it's been a solid group to hang out with.”
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