As promised, more from Wednesday’s interview with ACC commissioner John Swofford as the conference adjourned its annual spring meetings at Amelia Island, Fla.
While the previous post focused on the Florida State-to-Big 12 circus, this will center on the ACC’s preferred postseason football structure and the conference’s basketball tournaments once Syracuse and Pittsburgh arrive to grow membership to 14 schools.
With commissioners hoping to propose a new format for 2014 and beyond to the Bowl Championship Series’ Presidential Oversight Committee -- Virginia Tech’s Charles Steger chairs the panel – by late June, ACC head coaches and athletic directors debated options this week.
The conference’s consensus is a four-team playoff of league champions only, staged within the bowls. Any changes take effect for the 2014 season.
“In terms of the bowls, very strong preference there as opposed to campus or neutral sites,” Swofford said. “What we’ve tried to do here is not get too rigid, but to certainly know what our preferences would be.
“Because I think going forward if everybody (from various conferences) walks into the room with the attitude of drawing a line in the sand on every issue, the chances of us accomplishing much are not very high. So what we’re all trying to do is take a look at preferences, what you can accept and maybe what you can’t accept, what you wouldn’t accept.”
The ACC would accept a playoff that included the three highest-rated conference winners, plus a wild card, or, grudgingly, just the nation’s four highest-rated teams. Given the league’s less-than-stellar football past and seemingly slim chances of cracking a top four, naturally ACC officials want conference champions to have priority as opposed to a wild card such as SEC West runner-up Alabama last season.
It’s called self-preservation.
“We talked about the simplicity of 1-2-3-4 and how easy to understand that would be,” Swofford said. “But the sense of the room and preference of the room became incorporating winning a conference championship into the mix in some way.
“Not that it would have to be 100 percent conference champions, potentially three of the top-rated ones, if they’re above a certain standard, and a wild card as a possibility. But continuing to emphasize the regular season and emphasize conference championships.”
Swofford said that in addition to the three playoff bowls – two semifinals and a final – the ACC favors two or three games under the BCS auspices guaranteeing other conference champions “a high-level bowl.”
Incurable mistrust of the incestuous bowl system leads me to favor the semifinals on the campus of the two highest seeds with the title game bid out like the Super Bowl. But that appears to be a non-starter not only for the ACC but also the Big Ten, as Yahoo!Sports columnist Dan Wetzel details.
“It’ll get more and more challenging the more focused it becomes,” Swofford said. “Hopefully we’ll all be flexible enough, because there will have to be give-and-take along the way for this to work, and if there’s not, we could end up with the current system or something very similar to it.”
Nagging issues could include how to select or rate teams. Committee? BCS standings? New formula?
And don’t forget: How to distribute the playoff’s revenue?
* As expected, ACC officials approved five-day conference basketball tournaments once Syracuse and Pitt begin competition in 2013-14 or the following year. Seeds 11-14 will play two opening-round games Wednesday, with the winners advancing to the current 12-team bracket.
This extends the event by a day and creates the possibility of miserable attendance Wednesday. In an attempt to avoid that financial and PR hit, Swofford said the ACC is considering a separate ticket for Wednesday’s doubleheader.
Presently, conference schools sell their tournament tickets in books that include entry to all sessions. Since fans of the four teams that don’t play until Friday are highly unlikely to attend Wednesday, the separate tickets for that day make complete sense.
“I think there will be more and more of a local (tournament site) emphasis on ticket sales with the Wednesday games particularly,” Swofford said. “It’s still viewed as the premier college basketball conference tournament in the country, and we want to keep it that way and even enhance it. But it’s a little different animal with that many teams, and we need to adjust to that.”
The only other five-day, one-venue conference tournament is the Big East’s 16-team championship at New York’s Madison Square Garden. In the 14-team Atlantic 10, only 12 qualify for the tournament, and four-opening-round games are staged at campus sites, with the winners joining the top four seeds in a traditional eight-team, three-day, one-venue bracket.
If the ACC’s five-day format flops, the A-10 model would be worth considering.
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