Swofford: League, Game Of Basketball Should Be Open To Change

Commissioner meets with media in attendance at ACC Operation Basketball

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (theACC.com) – The numbers speak for themselves in regard to the success of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, but Commissioner John Swofford says the league – and the college game as a whole – should proactively seek and weigh potentially positive changes.

“Beyond the games this year and the season in front of us, there are a number of topics that we should collectively consider to grow this great game,” Swofford said before fielding questions from media members at Wednesday’s ACC Operation Basketball.  “These are all concepts that are important to fully vet to see if there’s widespread support and merit, but I don’t think we should be shy about the desire to constantly look at possible ways to make this great game better and evolve with the times.”

This will mark the fourth season in which each of the ACC’s 15 teams will play an 18-game conference schedule. While not directly advocating the idea of playing even more league games, Swofford does feel it is a primary topic for discussion. 

“As the premiere league in the country, would that enhance players’ experience while in the ACC?” he asked. “It seems clear that there’s increased fan support for (more) conference games, and it would create a more balanced schedule. Would it help our teams when it came to the NCAA Tournament selection process or would it hinder them?”

Swofford said a more formal “opening weekend” for college basketball and the start of conference play is also worthy of consideration.

“I would love to see more excitement and buzz given to the start of college basketball, like we see in other sports,” Swofford said. “If that means we have to alter the start of the season, we should take the time to consider whether it works and is worth any growing pains. We know there is always a dramatic, climactic end to the season. The beginning of the season … not as much.”

Swofford applauded college basketball’s move to the 30-second shot clock, and noted that the ACC experimented with that rule during exhibition games prior to last season.

“We need to evaluate the current shot clock change; however, let’s not close the idea of possibly going to 24 seconds,” Swofford suggested. “Looking at the best of the NBA and international rules, should we widen the lane, consider the quarter system or advancing the ball to the front court when a team takes a timeout in the last two minutes of the game?”

And along those lines, Swofford said he would not be opposed to a discussion of moving to six fouls before a player is disqualified from the game.

“We want the officials to continue to whistle illegal contact – and that is a point of emphasis this season – but we don’t want player disqualified prematurely,” Swofford said.

Swofford believes positive strides are being made in relation to the NBA Draft and underclassmen that choose to enter the professional ranks prior to exhausting the four years of collegiate eligibility. 

“Several coaches have worked with the NBA and others to propose a new draft entry model that will be voted on in January,” Swofford said. “It provides better and more complete information to the student-athlete by allowing him to participate in the pre-draft combine and gain feedback in order to make the most informed decision. 

“Personally I would prefer a model that combines (the structure used in) Major League Baseball and the NFL where you can be drafted out of high school and if not, you stay three years in college.” 

Swofford shares the consensus view that ACC’s 63rd collegiate season will continue the league’s tradition of national championship contenders and elite players. Duke’s 2015 NCAA title is the seventh by an ACC team in the past 15 years. That figure leads all conferences, as did the ACC’s five teams among last season’s “Sweet 16” and three among the “Elite Eight.”

“Basketball has been and continues to be extremely special in the league,” Swofford said. “No collection of programs can match the ones we have in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”

That has been borne out in the preseason ranking, including the USA Today Coaches Poll in which three ACC teams are ranked among the top 10, four among the top 25 and eight total league teams received votes.

“I’ve said it before but this league is brutal – and I mean that in a positive sense – day in and day out there are no breaks in ACC Basketball,” Swofford said.

ACC fans will again have plenty of opportunities to view the 2015-16 season as it unfolds. Over 230 games involving ACC teams are scheduled to be shown nationally, culminating with the 2016 ACC Tournament March 8-12 at Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center.

“ESPN, the ACC Network, the ACC Digital Network and our regional networks, including Fox Sports South, continue to be terrific partners,” Swofford said. “As part of our relationship with ESPN, I do want to mention that whether it’s the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Big Monday, College GameDay … there’s great coverage for our teams and the fans.”