John Swofford has been the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1997. In his tenure we have seen massive expansion, and the revenue has doubled. A few years back when all teams seemed to be in play for switching conferences, Swofford kept the conference in pretty good shape. Losing Maryland upset some of the traditionalists, but penning Notre Dame for football quickly erased that sour taste. It wasn't quite the complete coup, but having the Irish play five A.C.C. teams per year is still great. The Hokies are slated to travel to South Bend in 2016. There have been some hits, some misses, and the ever judgmental twittersphere has not been kind.
Some of that can be chalked up as sour grapes from a rival fan, but the integrity question is valid. That is for another article at another time. The real gripe I have with Swofford began percolating in my head yesterday watching The Finebaum Show. There I was on my sofa watching Finebaum interview retiring S.E.C. commissioner Mike Slive. That guy was an incredible commissioner. I'm not going to get into football and basketball successes. I'm not going to look at the academic record. I'm looking at a businessman who took the S.E.C. into the forefront of college football. He expanded methodically, not interested in quanity, but quality. He added footprints in Texas and the Midwest with Missouri and A&M. That's solid enough, but his biggest contribution was the creation of the S.E.C. Network.
Here I am on my couch watching the S.E.C. commissioner on the S.E.C. Network. Where is the A.C.C. network? I'm not talking about Raycom and Jefferson-Pilot regional coverage. I literally had to scroll by the Big Ten Network and the Texas Longhorn Network to get to the S.E.C. Network. I'm not saying Virginia Tech deserves or could subsidize its own national network, but certainly the A.C.C. should. We have missed the boat on this one. It definitely helps the brand. It definitely drives interest. It helps non-revenue sports as well. The money is ridiculous. There are estimates as low as 20 million per year per school, and as high as 40 million for every S.E.C. school. Imagine what kind of difference even half that money would mean for the A.C.C. members.
The days of being a member of the power 5 and streaming your games on ESPN3 are over. To compete with the rest of big time college athletics, we need to get in the game NOW. We need a commissioner who understands the power of being a national player, and a national brand. We need the conference leader to be proactive, not reactive. What is going to take for the A.C.C. to ink a deal for a 24 hour national outlet? Is it going to be musical chairs where we end up standing there with a confused look on our face while the Big East, Conference USA, and others take our spot at the big boy table? College baseball is only getting bigger, and our basketball tradition speaks for itself. I would love to tune into channel 632 and watch the spring games around the conference or the baseball tournament. I just hope John Swofford feels the same way.
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