GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A court-mandated deadline for mediation passed earlier this month, but ACC commissioner John Swofford sounded anything but conciliatory Sunday regarding the league’s legal dispute with the University of Maryland.
The Terrapins officially withdrew from the ACC on July 1 to join the Big Ten, a move first announced in November 2012. According to ACC bylaws, Maryland’s exit fee is approximately $52 million, but the parties are haggling in court – the ACC sued for its money, and the school countered with an antitrust claim.
A North Carolina judge assigned Bethesda, Md.,-based arbiter Jonathan Marks to the case and ordered a meeting by July 10. During his annual news conference at the ACC’s preseason football gathering Sunday, Swofford declined to say whether that deadline was met.
“They were a quality member of this league for 60 years,” he said of Maryland, “and our league feels that it has a responsibility to the Atlantic Coast Conference member institutions to live by our constitution and bylaws as they leave the league. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Swofford was far kinder and gentler regarding the NCAA’s release Friday of a new proposed governance structure for Division I. Most notably, the plan called for a 60 percent majority, rather than two-thirds, of the power five conference schools to enact autonomy legislation on matters such as enhanced scholarships and insurance coverage for athletes.
“I find the steering committee’s report very encouraging,” Swofford said, “and it is my hope that it will be adopted by the full board in August so that implementation of the new structure and procedures can begin this fall.
It largely gives the power five conferences what we have been asking for and keeps the current revenue sharing approach and the NCAA basketball tournament intact, thus keeping us all under what we call the big tent of the NCAA.”
Details on Swofford’s opinion of NCAA reforms are available in my June interview with him.
Swofford said Sunday that if the membership approves the new structure, he is confident that ACC-Big 12 sponsored legislation to allow conferences to stage football championship games without divisions and with fewer than 12 members will pass. His optimism is based on meetings he had with commissioner colleagues earlier this month.
But as he did during my interview with him last month, Swofford insisted that the legislation’s passage would not necessarily portend the ACC scrapping or changing divisions. He said the ACC and Big 12 simply believe conferences should have the autonomy to determine championship game participants as they choose.
Other nuggets from the first of two days here in Greensboro:
# Like many of his teammates, Virginia Tech receiver Willie Byrn is enamored with freshman tailback Marshawn Williams from Phoebus High. He “is becoming one of my favorite players in the world because he doesn’t care,” Byrn said. “He runs through a wall. … When they see Marshawn breaking arm tackles and not accepting one guy, just one guy to take him down, that’s how the other running backs are going to run.”
# Virginia running back Kevin Parks believes the Cavaliers, 2-10 last season, need to draw inspiration from the wealth of winning teams at U.Va. “If that doesn’t motivate (our) team, I’m wondering what kind of men our players are,” he said. “Baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it, lacrosse – it’s crazy at our school. Everybody is doing (well). It’s kind of like pressure. Those guys are (winning). Why can’t we do it?”
# Jameis Winston, Florida State’s Heisman-winning quarterback, said the Seminoles took pride in ending the Southeastern Conference’s choke-hold on the national title with January’s Bowl Championship Series conquest of Auburn.
“How about that, man, taking the rein from the SEC, huh?,” he said. “We are the national champions in this conference, and that’s important to me because people do need to respect the ACC more. We had 11 teams with a winning record last year, and that’s good. I mean, we have competition here. We’ve got people getting drafted everywhere from this conference. I believe that Florida State, we helped gain that respect, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Finally, Duke All-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown on last season’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, in which the upstart Blue Devils led Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel by 21 points at halftime, only to lose 52-48: “Man, the first half shows us that we can hang with anybody, if nothing else, and the second half just kind of put a bitter taste in our mouth. We gave away a game we very well should have won.”
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