ACC's Swofford likes league's potential, acknowledges shortcomings

by | Senior Writer

Swofford knows that improving the ACC's 1-5 BCS record is critical to changing perceptions. (US Presswire)  
Swofford knows that improving the ACC's 1-5 BCS record is critical to changing perceptions. (US Presswire)  

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford sat down with me Sunday afternoon to discuss a variety of college football subjects and issues, including the recent rash of NCAA violations, the inconsistency in the NCAA's penalties, what penalties he's expecting North Carolina will receive, the ACC's struggle in BCS bowls and what Sept. 17 could mean to his league.

Swofford also said when it appeared last summer the Pac-12 was expanding to 16 schools the ACC had some "very thorough" talks about expansion but ultimately prefers to stay at 12 teams.

Q: You've mentioned you're in favor of stricter NCAA penalties for programs that violate NCAA rules, how do you balance the risk vs. the reward?

A: The risk has to be greater and more consistent and pre-determined. Some of those areas: [considering a] ban on television in particular. You have to find out a way not to penalize everyone in the league. I think you could do that in a sense of the television money that would have gone to the offending school would be divvied out among the remaining members not on probation.

Q: Do the ACC by-laws indicate whether a school that received a television ban would still receive a share of the conference media rights revenue?

A: It would be determined if that happened.

Q: North Carolina has been accused of nine violations by the NCAA. Are you expecting the Tar Heels to receive a fairly significant penalty?

A: My ability to predict NCAA enforcement penalties is not very good. I don't do that. By policy I don't comment on ongoing investigations. I would like for us to take a look at predetermined penalties within a range of certain kind of offenses, take a stab at that. I think it would bring more consistency and more transparency to the process.

Q: Are you surprised that it appears Ohio State will not face further penalties?

A: I'm not sure I'm close enough to it, I'm watching it and I obviously know the basic aspects of it. But there also may be aspects I'm totally unaware of. We -- the NCAA -- set ourselves back a bit in the past year with the things that have happened. People just generally within intercollegiate athletics or outside of it: the whole idea that five Ohio State players could play in the Sugar Bowl but couldn't the first five games of next season. That's just illogical in most people's minds.

Q: When the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East, a lot of people expected the league to become a superpower. That has not happened. Has the league underachieved?

A: It depends on your level of expectation. From my perspective as commissioner of the league, leading up to our decision to expand, what we wanted to do is to make certain we positioned our conference for the future and the long run. It was our belief there was going to be some instability in term of conference affiliation. We would be wiser to be proactive rather than reactive and bring in schools we prefer to have -- that wanted to be part of the ACC and would stabilize us and strengthen our position as a league as we move forward. That would enhance our ability to generate more revenue with our television contracts -- it has done that -- it has positioned us in our opinion much more strongly than we would have been as a nine-member league. We would have been much more vulnerable as a nine member league. The dollars generated have exceeded our expectation. What we ended up with was 12 schools that very much are committed to each other and want to stay together. We've been very stable when a lot of other people haven't.

Our goals and objectives have generally been met. From a national perspective, we haven't achieved competitively at the level expected. We think we have more depth and are a better football conference than we have been in our history. Have we reached our potential football wise as a 12-member conference? No. I don't think we have. I think we will when our top couple of teams is in the national championship picture and hopefully winning and if and when we have a second team in [a] BCS bowl. In time that will come.

Q: Since expansion, the ACC is only 1-5 in BCS bowls. What is the reason your league has struggled in those games?

A: If there was [a reason], I wish I knew what it was. It's been frustrating at times, quite honestly. A lot of those games have been very close games. Obviously Stanford pulled away from Virginia Tech [in last year's Orange Bowl], but you look back at some of those games. You just shake your head starting with Florida State's triple overtime loss to Penn State [in the 2005 Orange Bowl].

Q: Do you believe the 16-team super-conferences are inevitable?

A: I don't think it's inevitable, doesn't mean it won't happen. That [going to 16 teams] is not easy to do. It's a very sexy subject to write about. It's easy to write about it and make those predictions, but if they don't come true nobody remembers you made those predictions. I think in talking [to other BCS commissioners] -- all of us -- what we want to do is what's best for our conference. We had some very thorough [talks] in the past year because of last summer -- that weren't very public -- but they were very thorough. Our preference is to remain at 12 [schools], we like 12 as the number. We're not crazy about 14 or 16 [schools] because it begins to change a number of things tangibly such as scheduling and intangibly such as culture.

But we want to remain nimble enough so if we want to look in that direction we'll be ready to do that in very short order. Twelve [teams] works. It's not to say 14 or 16 can't work, it can. I don't think [16 team conferences] is inevitable, it's possible."

Swofford will be watching as the ACC plays four high-profile games on Sept. 17, a chance to make a statement on the field. (Getty Images)  
Swofford will be watching as the ACC plays four high-profile games on Sept. 17, a chance to make a statement on the field. (Getty Images)  
Q: On Sept. 17, Florida State plays Oklahoma, Miami plays Ohio State, Maryland plays West Virginia and Clemson plays Auburn. How big of a day is that for the ACC?

A: It would be good to win a few of those. It's a great opportunity. If it doesn't turn out our way, you have a lot of the season left. You can't throw in the towel based on three or four games based on one Saturday. Certainly it would perceptually help us from a national standpoint if we have some wins that day."

Q:Describe the state of college football today in one word?

A: Mixed.

Q: You're in favor of cost of attendance for student-athletes, but what is the likelihood of paying players?

A: First of all, the whole idea of paying players is the anathema to education because you'd run into all sort of tax and employee issues that institutions, in my opinion, are not going to consider at all. The whole idea of paying players salaries as it relates to that fact and Title IX and that law is almost a waste of time to talk about because it's not realistic.

My interest in full cost of education, it's accepted and established on our campuses with other scholarships, such as merit scholarships. It's preexisting. It's educationally sound though educational channels and parameters. It puts some extra money in an athlete's pocket. I think that's a good thing and the right way to do it. If it's decided it's the appropriate thing to do.


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