ACC: City Schools 2011

Heart of the City: Maryland

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
12:00
PM ET
School: Maryland
Location: College Park, Md.
Enrollment: 37,641
Bowl appearances: 24
NFL first-round picks: 8
Losing seasons: 34
10-win seasons: 7
Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: College numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The skinny: Maryland enters its first season under coach Randy Edsall after Ralph Friedgen, the ACC’s 2010 Coach of the Year, was fired. Friedgen’s career at Maryland began with three straight seasons of at least 10 wins, but the school has settled into mediocrity since 2004. Edsall was hired to make the program a consistent contender in the Atlantic Division and top 25 presence. Maryland’s location is one of the things he’ll have to both sell to recruits and overcome.

The good: The 1,580-acre campus is located between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., providing ample choices for internships, careers and entertainment. The Terps are also located in and near some of the nation’s premier recruiting territories in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. The athletic department has also taken major steps to upgrade the facilities, and in recent years have renovated the Gossett Football Team House and expanded Tyser Tower to include luxury suites. Maryland has ACC championship history, including the 2001 title in Friedgen’s first season.

The bad: Not only must the Terps recruit against neighboring Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech, they must also compete against pro sports teams in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., for fan support. Because the nation’s capital is so transient, Maryland has a fickle fan base that has shown more apathy than loyalty in recent years, which is a major reason the Terps were underappreciated in the bowl selection process last year, despite a nine-win season.

Heart of the City: Miami

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
11:00
AM ET
School: Miami
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
Enrollment: 14,905
Bowl appearances: 31
NFL first-round picks: 54
Losing seasons: 18
10-win seasons: 14
Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: College numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The skinny: Miami enters its first season under coach Al Golden.

The good: With South Beach nearby, along with dozens of other beaches, beautiful weather and five national titles, the program should be an easy sell. Former Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta and Golden like it so much they both have homes less than two miles away from campus. Miami has a football tradition that can rival that of any in the country, and the graduation rate has been among the best in the country in recent years. There’s enough talent in the state of Florida to go around, but the staff doesn’t have to look much further than its own county. While the alumni base is small, a large percentage of the program’s most loyal fans grow up in the nearby South Florida neighborhoods and are aware of its rich history.

“Not only is the scholarship at Miami here worth $55,000, but with that there’s more value in that because of what Miami can provide you from a social aspect,” Golden said. “Most people, the first thing they think about are parties. That’s like one of 50 things you can do when you’re in this kind of diverse setting. Our kids go to the beach, they fish, we have kids who go out to the Everglades or central Florida and hunt. We have art shows, festivals … Key West. When USC and Miami are right, when they’re right, they’re hard to beat because not only are they top 50 institutions that can play top-level football and have a track record of producing NFL players, they also can give you everything.”

The bad: The Hurricanes don’t have the room or the money for a stadium on campus, so they’re forced to play in an NFL stadium 20 miles away. Unless it’s a marquee opponent like Ohio State, the tailgating scene at Sun Life Stadium is lacking and the venue seems bigger than the game. The Hurricanes are also competing with four professional sports teams, including the Dolphins, for fan support, and have one of the country’s smaller alumni bases to start with (approximately 154,000). Golden said that the program’s relationship with the Dolphins, while respectful, isn’t as close as it was with the Eagles when he was in Philadelphia. Miami is also competing with rivals Florida State and Florida -- not to mention the country's other premier programs -- for in-state talent. While the history of Miami football is what defines it, it’s also what creates an enormous amount of pressure for every new head coach.

Heart of the City: Georgia Tech

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
10:30
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School: Georgia Tech
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Enrollment: 19,404
Bowl appearances: 37
NFL first-round picks: 7
Losing seasons: 20
10-win seasons: 7
Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: College numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The skinny: Georgia Tech is coming off its first losing season since 1996, and has lost its past six bowl games, including the past three under coach Paul Johnson. Still, Georgia Tech has been a consistent contender under Johnson, finishing in first place in the Coastal Division in each of his first two seasons and winning the ACC title in 2009. Tech has finished .500 or better in ACC play for a conference-record 16 straight seasons.

The good: Georgia Tech is an established program and has thrived in the heart of Atlanta. Tech will enter its 119th season of football this year, and no team has won more games in its current home stadium than the Yellow Jackets (438). It has a rich football tradition that includes four national titles, three ACC titles, five SEC titles and three Southern Conference championships. Despite the presence of the Braves and Falcons, Atlanta is a college football town -- not necessarily all in favor of Georgia Tech, as there are plenty of Georgia grads in the city, but unlike other cities, the program isn’t buried on the back page of the paper. Sports talk radio thrives in Atlanta, and there's no lack of exposure in SEC country. There's also no shortage of things to do in the city, as the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola and CNN are all within a mile and a half of campus. The state is also one of the nation's most fertile recruiting grounds, so the Georgia Tech staff doesn't have to travel far to find elite talent.

The bad: Tailgating requires effort. Compared to most college-town schools, Georgia Tech fans and visitors have to be creative. Some tailgate it in parking decks, others stop by the Varsity, but it’s not a traditional scene. Traffic and parking also makes navigation to Bobby Dodd Stadium difficult. The Jackets continue to play in the shadow of Georgia, the Falcons are No. 1 in the city, followed by the Braves. There’s always going to be competition for attention and attendance. Smaller local schools like Georgia State, Mercer and Kennesaw State are also blossoming programs, and NASCAR draws another crowd. While the recruits are plenty, so are the top-level coaches chasing them. It's centrally located and easy to get to -- for everyone.
ESPN.com is taking a closer look this week at city schools, football programs that compete with an NFL franchise for your attention, money and loyalty. Here in the blogosphere we'll be looking at the ACC's urban programs, what they've got working in their favor, and what they've got going against them.

School: Boston College
Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Enrollment: 14,500
Bowl appearances: 21
NFL first-round picks: 15
Losing seasons: 21
10-win seasons: 4
Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: Numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The skinny: Since joining the ACC, Boston College has been a consistent contender, but its success has been overshadowed by other teams in the league and its neighbors in nearby Boston. The Eagles played in back-to-back ACC championship games in 2007 and 2008, but have also had three different coaches in the past five seasons. Coach Frank Spaziani enters his third season as head coach, but after a decade as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, he’s more than familiar with what it takes to make the program thrive in an urban environment.

The good: Boston College has built a reputation for recruiting blue-collar athletes who work hard and are talented enough to contend for conference championships. That’s best reflected in the Eagles’ defense, which has ranked 13th nationally over the past seven seasons, allowing 312.36 yards per game over a span of 91 games. Since joining the ACC for the 2005 season, Boston College has won 54 football games, the most in the six-year period in the ACC with the exception of Virginia Tech, which has won 63. There is also a football tradition to build upon, which includes the rivalry with Notre Dame and the famed career of Doug Flutie. Academically, BC is one of the nation’s best. Last year the university was ranked among the top 34 by US News & World Report, and the entire athletic department typically has one of the highest graduation rates in the FBS. It’s a diverse student body that has drawn students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries, but it’s also selective, as the university received about 30,000 applications for its 2,250-member class of 2014.

The bad: It’s no secret Boston College often gets overlooked in the bowl selection process because of a small alumni base that doesn’t travel well. Nine-win seasons have amounted to the MPC Computers Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl. The Eagles have trouble filling their own stadium, and averaged 38,369 fans last year. There is also a lack of media exposure in part because of the moderate success of the program and also because of the competing pro sports. With the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins nearby, exposure is at a premium, and BC hasn’t won big enough to emerge from the shadows. The Eagles are more a guest of the Top 25 than a resident, and have no conference championships on their résumé. While the Eagles have recruited well enough to contend, they have one Heisman Trophy winner in program history and 10 consensus All-Americans. It’s not in a hotbed for recruiting like Florida State or Miami, and geographically, it was a better fit for the Big East.

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