Keeping the ACC Title Game in Charlotte is the Right Choice
It’s basketball season in ACC country, and things are better than ever. Four teams are ranked in the AP poll (#4 Syracuse, #6 Duke, #12 Virginia, and #19 North Carolina), and the league is coming off of one of its most exciting weeks ever. An unexpected roadblock in Syracuse’s quest for dominance has sent them reeling, while the Duke-North Carolina game was, well…Duke and North Carolina. An instant classic. So naturally, the league is doing everything it can to seize this media momentum by calling a press conference today to talk about…football.
It’s not as weird as it sounds. Even if it feels wildly out of season, the 2014 conference schedule was announced a little over a month ago. Football is coming. The NFL combine is in session, and spring practice begins for many teams in the next few weeks (voluntary practices have already begun). The conference doesn’t just have basketball momentum to take care of. It’s coming off of a historic football season too, with 11 bowl eligible teams, an Orange Bowl title, a BCS Championship and a Heisman winner. So Swofford and Co. were right to keep things going, and I believe that they were right in their announcement.
The ACC Football Title Game is staying in Charlotte (at least through 2019).
It just makes sense. Fans can scream biases and conspiracies all they want, but the fact is, that the State of North Carolina is, and will always be, the heart of the league. With the conference offices and more schools than any other state, it presents the ACC with the best chance of success no matter who is playing. By picking Charlotte, the conference gets the league’s geographic center, an exciting city, an NFL stadium and an international airport that’s easily accessible from anywhere. They also get to stay in the place that’s had the best attendance in ACC Football Championship history by a long shot. Not a bad deal.
The game has been so successful in its current form, because the people of North Carolina live and breathe the ACC (so forget your worthless gestures, Big Ten). Even if one of the Big Four (as they’re known locally) isn’t in the game, many people will go anyway just out of interest. This is seen when the ACC Basketball Tournament is hosted in Greensboro.
These days, it’s hard to find people who are ‘fans of a conference’ because of the changing landscape. This just isn’t true in North Carolina. ACC events are local holidays. People turn them on at work. They turn them on at school. And it’s always been acceptable to miss an appointment because of a game. That’s just the culture.
Now the ACC isn’t under the illusion that a North Carolina school will be in the game every year. That clearly hasn’t been the case, with Duke being the exception this season. They know that Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech are their strongest programs. This move isn’t a denial of that. But Bank of America Stadium isn’t that far from Clemson. The Carolina Panthers are actually the State of South Carolina’s official NFL team. And North Carolina has some of the largest Hokie Alumni clubs outside of Virginia. Florida State fans are Florida State fans. They’ll travel to see Jameis Winston anyway. So it makes all the sense in the world to keep a good thing going by keeping the Championship in Charlotte.
Why? Because it works. Sure, the league could move the game around. It wouldn’t be hard to find a line of suitors, especially after last season. But the game wasn’t very successful when it was in Florida. That’s practically a non-starter for administrators. Even with Florida State’s resurgence, it’s impossible to predict which teams will be good from year to year and that’s why a central location is the best option. Schools could host the game, but numerous schools officials have indicated that this isn’t their first preference. Why go against their wishes, especially with momentum on the conference’s side?
But what do you think? It’s easy to see the benefits of keeping the game where it is, but do you agree, or disagree? Do you have a suggestion that you think could make it better? Let us know!