Swofford: ACC future 'never been stronger'
The Atlantic Coast Conference is settling into a period of stability it helped create.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference is settling into a period of stability it helped create.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are finally here, Notre Dame is partly in, and Louisville will arrive soon.
So as the league on Sunday held the first of its two-day preseason football extravaganza, it did so with the focus squarely on the field.
"The composition of the long-term membership of the ACC has never been stronger," commissioner John Swofford said.
That's thanks to the new grant-of-rights agreement that pumped the brakes on realignment, basically locks in the current members and Louisville until 2027, and "publicly secured our position as one of the nation's premier conferences," Swofford said.
The commissioner said that if Notre Dame ever chooses to place its fiercely independent football program in a league before 2026-27, "that conference by contractual agreement would be the (ACC)."
He also says the basketball-centric ACC has "unlimited potential" in football.
And the league certainly could take steps to realize that potential if its marquee programs perform up to expectations.
Florida State claimed just the ACC's second win in a BCS bowl since the 1999 season when it beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. And the players hope that victory helped answer the nagging question of whether the Seminoles -- who won two national titles in the 1990s -- are back.
"I don't think we ever really left," receiver Rashad Greene said. "We always came up short here or there, but it's our job to be consistent. As long as we stay consistent throughout the season and have that goal in mind, we'll do just fine."
Virginia Tech has been the preseason pick to win the Coastal Division in seven of eight years since the league split into divisions, and the Hokies will find out Monday -- when the ACC's preseason picks are announced -- if they were picked to do it again.
And Clemson -- and 2012 ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd -- knocked off LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in one of the most memorable matchups of last postseason.
Syracuse and Pitt made their first appearances at the ACC Kickoff, trading in the annual summertime Rhode Island clambake that was a Big East staple for this visit to central North Carolina.
"A lot of great players, great competition -- what more could you ask for?" Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. "All around, everything's just up. Higher stakes."
This will mark the only season in this configuration of the ACC because Maryland is leaving next year for the Big Ten. Louisville is on track to step in for the Terrapins.
Swofford declined to discuss the ongoing legal proceedings between the ACC and Maryland over the roughly $53 million exit fee the league says it is owed.
But the Terps' athletic teams, he said, "in playing their last year in our league, deserve the very best of the ACC, and that's what they will receive."
But quarterback C.J. Brown downplayed the idea that the Terps would try to make some type of farewell statement to the ACC.
"This is the last year we're going to be partaking in the ACC, but we're just excited for the opportunity and we're just going to go out and represent Maryland the best that we can," Brown said. "Hopefully we go out with a bang."
The ACC's future wasn't the only topic Swofford addressed Sunday. Among the others were:
• Swofford discussed where he stands on pay-for-play, one week after South Carolina's Steve Spurrier said coaches in the SEC want to give players $300 per game to provide them with extra money. Swofford said he's not on board with that approach, but said he would be in favor of enhancing scholarships for all student-athletes.
"The whole idea of trying to enhance the financial well-being of student-athletes that are on scholarship is on our radar, and we've been talking about this nationally for several years now, without finding something that works, that agrees with enough people that works, and I think part of that is because it's more complicated than first meets the eye," Swofford said. "If we're going to enhance the financial well-being of our student-athletes it's very difficult to look at it in terms of a sport or two sports. Just from a legal standpoint. Title IX and what's appropriate, what's legal.
"I'm not for paying players; I don't think that's what college athletics is about. But I am for looking very diligently at a way to enhance the scholarship itself, whether it's need based, whether it's based on a simple stipend that once existed or some other way to approach it, whether it's going to the full cost of attendance. But you've got to be able to find something that enough people can accept and support to move it forward."
• Swofford responded to Spurrier's assertion that Notre Dame should join a conference in football.
"That was discussed when the league made the decision to bring Notre Dame in (for all sports but football)," Swofford said. "It's the right thing to do at this point in time. It was a unanimous decision by our institutions and a very positive one that has already benefited us without question. ... I'm really pleased and I know the vast majority of people in our league are pleased that ND is part of the ACC family under the conditions they are currently under."
• Swofford was asked about attending Miami's NCAA Committee on Infractions meeting in June in Indianapolis.
"What I took away is I thought the University of Miami and their personnel and their leadership and Mike Glazier handled it extraordinarily well," Swofford said. "I would hope that whatever is coming from the NCAA will come before the season starts. I'd be very disappointed if that was not the case."
Information from ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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