Per the print column for Monday’s paper, ACC commissioner John Swofford’s most notable remarks at the conference’s football kickoff Sunday here in Pinehurst centered on NCAA reform. But the commish, entering his 15th season in the corner office, opined on other matters.
* The state of ACC football. Swofford said the league’s depth “is probably the best it’s ever been,” certainly a defensible stance given that the conference’s 50 bowl bids since 2005 trail only the Southeastern Conference’s 51.
But Swofford was most on-point with this: “Obviously we need to win more of our high-profile games against non-conference opponents. That’s the one thing we haven’t done enough of in recent years … and for us to gain the kind of respect we want for Atlantic Coast Conference football, those are the kind of games we will need to win.”
Consider last season. ACC teams went 0-5 against non-conference foes ranked among the top 10 at kickoff. Virginia Tech lost to Boise State and Stanford, Miami to Ohio State, Florida State to Oklahoma, and Duke to Alabama.
The Hokies’ Orange Bowl crash against Stanford dropped the ACC’s Bowl Championship Series record to a national-worst 2-11. Each of the other five major conferences has won at least six BCS games, and no ACC team has ever earned a BCS at-large invite.
As Swofford pointed out, the conference’s programs schedule ambitiously and won’t lack for marquee opportunity this season. Clemson faces Auburn and South Carolina; Florida State plays Oklahoma and Florida; Boston College, Maryland and Wake Forest meet Notre Dame; Duke encounters Stanford; Miami reunites with Ohio State, Maryland with West Virginia, and Georgia Tech with Georgia.
* Swofford understandably touted the ACC leading Bowl Subdivision football in graduation success rates for six years running and for having a national-best four schools – Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State -- among the top 10 in the Directors’ Cup all-sports standings.
He said no conference balances the cornerstones of national competiveness, NCAA compliance and academic success as well as the ACC.
* Yet with Georgia Tech recently placed on NCAA probation and North Carolina on the fast track, Swofford described himself as “disappointed and concerned.”
Undoubtedly most in North Carolina, the school where he played football and served as athletic director, and where allegations of academic fraud, improper benefits and failure to monitor make Georgia Tech’s case look like a parking ticket.
“That’s one of the beauties of being in this league together because there’s a certain collective expectation (of NCAA compliance),” Swofford said.
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