- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brace yourselves. This is an interview with ACC commissioner John Swofford without any questions about realignment rumors. If I could do a backflip, I would. There are plenty of topics still facing the ACC, though, like the possibility of an ACC channel, upcoming spring meetings and playing football and basketball games overseas. We’ve already touched on possible future bowl partners and the ideal selection committee. Here are more of the highlights of our conversation:
What is the latest on the possibility of an ACC channel?
John Swofford: I think the grant of rights enhances the possibility of our having an ACC channel. … I think there’s real promise there as we evaluate that. The grant of rights opens up some opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there and the potential for a channel is one of those.
What else does it do?
JS: I think both tangibly and intangibly it enhances our league. You could tell that in the discussions with future bowl partners. You can tell in discussions with our television partner. I think it opens up more sponsorship opportunities going forward, and in an intangible way, it certainly changes the discussion so to speak from a national perspective, and all of that is very positive for our conference.
What is on the agenda for this year’s spring meetings?
JS: Well a lot of the work that has needed to be done in terms of a 15-member league has been completed as it relates to scheduling and divisions and so forth. This meeting will now be within close proximity of Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame competing. Louisville is now attending our meetings as well. As much as anything, what we will be looking at in the upcoming meetings relates to having the schools in the room and around the table that are going to be the ACC for the foreseeable future and taking a look at fine-tuning any scheduling issues that may exist, particularly finalizing Olympic sport schedules. We’ll be talking about our bowl affiliations, that will certainly be a part of our discussions, and we’ll be meeting with our television partners in terms of where we go from here and continuing the discussions about what’s best from a television standpoint, what maximizes our potential in terms of television as well as sponsorships and remaining cutting edge in terms of everything we’re trying to do. When you look at our footprint now, we will have the most television households and highest population in our footprint of any conference in the country.
Wow, I didn’t realize that.
JS: Yeah. You couple that with the technology going forward that’s available with the quality of the 15 institutions and our potential, I think it’s fair to say this is the strongest collection of basketball programs in one conference that’s ever been assembled, and our potential from a football standpoint is unlimited. I think our marketplace opportunities, along with the population numbers both current and projected moving forward, when you put all that together, it’s an enormous potential as a conference over the next 15 years and beyond. We just need to make the decisions and develop our programs in a way that continues to move us towards reaching that potential.
We’re going to have discussions to some degree about taking the brand international. Some interest in playing a basketball game or two and a football game overseas as a possibility. Our institutions are international, and it may well be a plus and a positive for our league to think in terms of taking the brand to Europe. There’s some natural aspects to that. The NFL used to play football over there in London, and London did a terrific job hosting the Olympics. Basketball is an international sport, and obviously we’re going to be extremely strong in basketball. It may make some sense to spread our wings a bit in both sports.
How far away or near in the future might that be?
JS: It’s hard to say. These are preliminary discussions at this point in time, but our schools seem to be receptive to the idea, so we will be pursuing that to see if it has merit.
How did you guys decide who was playing Notre Dame and when?
JS: Well there wasn’t any magic formula to it. We factored in a few of the schools that were already scheduled to play Notre Dame. We factored in when schools needed games, and the beauty of it is, that in that first three-year cycle, it works out so that everybody plays Notre Dame once and Syracuse plays them twice, and Syracuse had a series scheduled with Notre Dame, so that worked out well in terms of maintaining that already-scheduled series, and that was in concept the idea – that every school would be playing Notre Dame, home or away, during each three-year cycle, so it was good we were able to make the concept work from a practical standpoint during the first cycle.
Has any of the recent news – the grant of rights – changed the fact you might revisit the nine-game league schedule?
JS: I think it’s always a possibility. We had decided to go to nine, and then when we made the Notre Dame agreement, our schools felt more comfortable staying at eight with the addition of Notre Dame into the scheduling. That’s where we are at this point in time. Could it change? I think it could, but we’ll just have to wait and see on that. We’re proceeding at this point as if we will continue to play eight conference games.