What will the A.C.C. look like in five years? That’s a very interesting question. There has been a ton of churn at ESPN, and that has a bigger impact that most fans out there realize. ESPN is losing share at an alarming rate. Any business that is not growing is losing, and ESPN is showing typical signs of a struggling business in its decline. First step? Cut payroll. There was a purge of sorts in Bristol, CT, and some very talented folks got let go. Why is ESPN so important to the A.C.C.? ESPN has paid the A.C.C. for years, and with a promise to be on cable/satellite platforms by 2019 the next evolution, ESPN has good value with the monopoly. The trial baloon for this “conference channel” was the S.E.C. network. It has done reasonably well showing third tier games for football, decent basketball, and a ton of non rev sporting events. The one thing the S.E.C. Network did that was a home run was to hire Paul Finebaum. Finebaum is a polarizing figure for sure, but Finebaum and his crazy callers eat up four hours of programming per day. I’m not sure the A.C.C. has that type of media personality yet.
John Swofford may not be around in five years. That’s a fact. There are a ton of folks who dislike Swofford, but the growth of the conference can’t be undersold. The musical chairs of realignment a few years back garnered some support for Swofford. He protected the A.C.C. (save Maryland), and expanded the footprint. I guess it would boil down to the HB2 issue, for which I will not comment, but as an administrator, he has done really great things for the conference. The A.C.C., historically a basketball conference, has been well represented in the new football playoff format. Reigning hoops champ? Check. Reigning football champ? Check. These are the gravy times, my friend. I won’t go so far to say that the A.C.C. is where the S.E.C. is in football, but for the complete package we have an argument. The same couldn’t be said 5 years ago. The scary thought is that in five years, Roy Williams is not at U.N.C.. Odds are Mike Krzyzewski is not at Duke. Coach K is 70 folks. In 2022, it’s hard to envision a 75 year old Krzyzewski calling a timeout. That effectively cripples the blue bloods of the conference.
There will be a new breed of coaches battling to claim the tobacco road throne, but we’ve seen misfires from Carolina, and Duke hasn’t done the transition thing yet. There are no guarantees in a culture swap, and with these multi-national championship winners, expect a huge change. Cameron Indoor won’t be the same in 2022. The Dean Dome won’t be the same. Hokie fans should literally be dancing at Pedro’s if Buzz Williams is still in B’Burg in 2022. Point is, the cash cow of the conference always has been shooty hoops. We are witnessing the transition people. Florida State and Clemson have been carrying the football portion, but this will too evolve. HCMR down in Miami, is better than almost every coach in the A.C.C. except Dabo and Jimbo. ICYMI, HCMR, stands for Head Coach Mark Richt. People, he is that good. Expect Miami to be in the national title hunt in 2022. Bronco Mendenhall will be gone at U.V.A. in five years, and that means there should be one other first timer from the Coastal standing in 2022.
Justin Fuente will be the head coach at Virginia Tech in 2022. I’m not sure if we will be on the upswing or down, but the Fuente/Babcock love is the real deal. There is an old cliche in college football.
If Fuente can keep recruiting at the tear he has been on, expect great things from the Hokies. One inch of slip, book your tickets to the Continental Tire Bowl.