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Conference stronger than ever on many levels, Swofford tells media at ACC Football Kickoff
GREEENSBORO, N.C. – Commissioner John Swofford’s annual forum has long been a fixture of the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff, and he had even more ground to cover than usual as he addressed media in attendance on Sunday.
“This past year has been a remarkable and monumental one for the ACC,” Swofford said. “It’s hard to believe the many milestones that have taken place since I stood before you at this event last July.”
One such milestone is readily evident at this year’s Kickoff, as the ACC prepares for its first season as a 14-member football league with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse.
The past year also saw the addition of Notre Dame as an ACC member for all conference-sponsored sports with the exception of football. Louisville is set to join the conference in July of 2014, which will keep the ACC a 15-member league following Maryland’s move to the Big Ten.
And roughly three months ago, each of the ACC’s current and future member institutions signed a grant of media rights, a move which Swofford said “stabilized the landscape of college athletics, and just as important, publicly secured our position as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”
The composition of the ACC’s long-term membership, according to the commissioner, has never been stronger.
“I commend our institutional leadership for their thorough preparation, swift efforts, strategic wisdom and actions of solidarity and commitment which has led us to today,” Swofford said.
Some have proclaimed the new-look ACC as the strongest men’s basketball league ever assembled, and Swofford foresees the addition of the new member institutions making the conference stronger in all phases of athletic competition. But the upgrade extends far beyond the playing field.
“Academically, the new membership only bolsters our league’s credentials,” Swofford noted.” In the most recent US News and World Report’s ‘Best Colleges’ list, the ACC’s 15 member institutions rank first among the power five conferences, by all measures.”
In terms of marketing and media exposure, Swofford cited projections that 55 percent of the United States’ population will fall within the ACC’s geographic footprint by 2030.
“The combination of our marketplace opportunities, along with the population numbers both current and projected, give the ACC enormous potential in both the near and distant future,” Swofford said.
Focusing on the 2013 college football season, Swofford looked ahead to a season in which every game involving an ACC team will be available to viewers nationally via a major television network and/or ESPN3. In addition to a Labor Day Monday night conference opener between Florida State and Pitt, the 2013 schedule also features five Thursday night and three Friday night games that will be televised by ESPN.
“Our relationship with ESPN allows us to truly maximize the platforms for every fan to see ACC football,” said Swofford, who also pointed to the league’s overall strength of schedule.
“ACC teams will play 56 games against 48 non-conference opponents which had a combined winning percentage of 56 percent – by far the highest of any of the power five conferences,” Swofford said. “ACC teams will also play nine non-conference games against six teams selected by ESPN.com in its early preseason Top 10.”
Swofford looked further ahead to the ACC’s recently announced bowl lineup, which goes into effect for six years beginning in 2014. In addition to the Discover Orange Bowl, which will annually feature an ACC team on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day against opponents from the Big Ten, SEC and potentially Notre Dame, the ACC has announced relationships with the Capital One Bowl and the Russell Athletic Bowl as well as the Belk, Sun, Pinstripe, TaxSlayer.com Gator and Franklin American Music City Bowls.
“Each of these offers us more flexibility as well as improved financials, marquee matchups and premiere destinations,” Swofford said. “In the near future, we will round our lineup, which will also enhance and provide even greater depth for our 15 teams.”