GREENSBORO, Ga. - A year ago the ACC kicked off a yearlong celebration of its 50-year history. At present we begin a long-drawn acceptance of its future.
ACC commissioner John Swofford recently presided over one of the monumentally messed-up mergers and acquisitions in college history. Yet when he addressed the media to conclude the annual conference football kickoff at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Lake Oconee, it was not the third-degree roasting that you might have expected.
Critics of the ACC expansion debacle are resigned to the inevitable. What's done is done. What's going to be done is going to be done. Swofford even revealed that Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese sent him a letter apologizing for some of his negative public comments.
When the victims of muggings start apologizing to their attackers, you know it's time to move on.
And so we move on to figuring out what this New ACC will look like and how it will operate.
Will the ACC seek a 12th member school sooner rather than later? Will the conference implement a championship football game in 2004 if cleared by the NCAA? Where will it be? Who will sponsor it? How much money will it generate? What kind of divisional alignment, if any, will the ACC install? How will the basketball round-robin schedule be affected?
These were the kind of questions that Swofford had few specific answers for on Wednesday. But how much forthrightness could be expected from a man who just a year ago misled everyone by saying expansion was a "back-burner issue" for the conference? He declined to tell us the burner was turned up to high heat.
Swofford admits there is "continued interest" in growing to 12 teams, but he stopped short of calling it a certainty even if the NCAA refuses the league's petition to lower the magic number of schools required to host a football championship game from 12 to 10.
"Twelve is optimal but 11 is workable," Swofford said.
Should it grow to 12, the ACC might not be through its corporate raiding of other major conferences. Unless top choice and staunch independent Notre Dame yields to the ACC temptation, the rumor mill has developed a list of favorites that includes teams in the SEC (Florida or Kentucky), Big Ten (Penn State) and the Big East (Boston College, Syracuse or Pittsburgh).
As to the largely unanswered question of why the ACC felt the need to expand in the first place, Swofford stuck with the rationale that growing the conference was necessary to keep it relevant and prominent as a shaper in the future of college athletics.
"Ten years from now we'll look back at this and realize it would have been a big mistake not to take Miami and Virginia Tech," Swofford insisted.
Maybe. But what do two football schools with no significant basketball history do to enhance the ACC's basketball interests and tradition that will have to be altered to accommodate more dead weight?
"We have strengthened our conference in every respect," Swofford said. "I certainly don't think we've hurt our basketball. ... The basketball schedule might not be as dramatically changed as you might expect."
There's another question - will the ACC expand its basketball regular season schedule from 16 to 20 conference games?
Swofford and his New ACC are better at creating questions than answering them. But by the time the NCAA answers the ACC's petition next April, the conference will be well down the road to answering all the particulars of its new alliance.
Like it or not, it's time to deal with it. Just don't expect another apology for not liking it.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or email@example.com.