CHARLOTTE—The ACC kicked off the unofficial start of the 2017 football season Thursday with the annual ACC Football Kickoff.
And even with the football season still seven weeks away there was no shortage of excitement over the conferences recent resurgence as a national powerhouse with two of the last four national champions coming from the league (Florida State-2014 and Clemson-2016) and an 8-3 record since 2012 in BCS/ New Year’s Six/ College Football Playoff games.
That excitement was evident as the commissioner of the league, John Swofford, took to the stage to brag on the leagues accomplishments.
“Specifically related to football, this event provides the opportunity to celebrate the collective efforts of our teams, and one thing I’ve learned in college athletics over the years is that when you have the opportunity to celebrate those kinds of successes, you should do it,” Swofford said. “We’re coming off a year that included Clemson’s College Football Playoff National Championship; 11 bowl teams, all that finished with winning records, which led all conferences; Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy, and Deshaun Watson finishing second in that voting; nine postseason wins, including another Orange Bowl trophy, setting a league record and tying the national record ever for any conference, and the nation’s best record against both non-conference and other Power Five conference opponents.”
However, just as the Tigers’ head coach like to reference the “windshield mentality” that keeps his team focused on what is ahead of them—the commissioner was also adamant that the league cannot continue to live on the accomplishments of the past.
“But it’s really not about one year. It’s not just about last year or even the last couple of years. Our conference schools, programs, coaches, and players have built a strong foundation for the future,” Swofford said. “The strategic vision by the leadership at our schools, whether on our individual campuses or collectively at the league level, combined with our dedicated business partners, is what has us so well-positioned now as well as for the long- and short-term future.”
One thing that has helped the conference experience the success that they have had in recent years is their willingness to schedule out of conference opponents against national powers—which features Florida State taking on Alabama (Sept. 2), Pittsburgh taking on Penn State (Sept. 9), Oklahoma State taking on Pitt (Sept. 16), Clemson taking on Auburn (Sept. 9), Georgia Tech and Georgia (Nov. 25), LSU and Syracuse (Sept. 23) and, finally, Florida and Florida State (Nov. 25).
But the league may have not realized the need to schedule quality opponents had it not been for one coach speaking up and backing the commissioner of the league.
That coach was Dabo Swinney.
“They stepped up, and by they, I’m talking about everybody in our league,” Swofford said. “I told them the story about Dabo Swinney in that particular meeting, and Dabo said, “Listen, we’ve got to do what the Commissioner is talking about, and any of you that don’t think this league is going to be a prominent part of the playoff, you need to take a look in the mirror. We need to take a look in the mirror.” Because if you play the right people and you develop your program enough to win enough of the right games, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the playoff every year.
“And I thank Dabo, for following up as he did with his comments at that particular meeting, because it obviously resonated, and certainly it resonated at Clemson with Clemson’s National Championship this year.”
No details on the ACC linear platform:
The ACC Network launched last season with the ACC Digital Network and the ACC Network Extra for live streaming of games.
However, the linear network has been under a great deal of scrutiny as to whether or not the league will be able to ever gain the ability to broadcast to viewers in the way that they had hoped—and the commissioner did little to silence the rumors.
“There have been several things written and speculated about the network in recent weeks. I’m sure some of you may have questions related to the network, but I trust you will understand that we’re at a stage in our timetable and process with ESPN where it’s simply not going to be prudent for us to discuss until we reach the launch, the specific business aspects that are a work in progress.
“In the meantime, we will, again, have superb coverage of ACC football this fall through ABC and ESPN, the ACC syndicated network through Raycom Sports, and the Fox regional networks, as well as ACC Network Extra for digital live events, and the ACCDN for supplemental coverage of all things ACC. So, the coverage of Atlantic Coast Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference football, is outstanding and only stands to get even more outstanding as we move forward.”