ACC: Bigger - but nowhere near country's best

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The Atlantic Coast Conference brain trust made a bold proclamation the day the league expanded.

By adding Miami and Virginia Tech - and ultimately Boston College - the ACC deserved as much respect as a football league as it gets for basketball.

That's a clever way of saying college football fans across America should now consider the ACC the nation's top conference, or at least on par with the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten and Big 12.

Three years into super conference status, though, the ACC more closely resembles the league it raided, the Big East, than its geographical nemesis, the SEC.

The brain trust, though, is in denial.

John Swofford, ACC commissioner/spin doctor, stood before several hundred media members last month and rattled off the league's recent accomplishments.

- A .500 or better bowl record six seasons running, better than any other conference.

- Home to eight bowl teams in 2006.

- Home to the 2006 national coach of the year (Wake Forest's Jim Grobe).

He mentioned only one shortcoming: The ACC's failure to put a team in the national championship since expansion. And he managed to sugarcoat even that. "We are as deep and competitive as any league in the country," Swofford said.

Only by his own interpretation. The ACC has had three different champions since expansion, and the league's title game, instituted two seasons ago, has featured four different teams.

Yet that speaks more to the league's mediocrity than parity. Consider these facts:

- Since expansion, only one ACC team ranked higher than 10th in the final Associated Press poll (Virginia Tech was seventh in 2005). Last year, the highest ranked ACC team was Wake Forest at 18th.

- Since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series, the ACC is one of two BCS leagues - the Big East is the other - to fail to get a second, at-large berth to a BCS bowl.

- Since 2000, ACC teams are 0-7 in BCS games and 3-31 in non-conference games against top-10 teams.

The ACC is a joke nationally.

The Pac-10 is a pathetic league overall, but at least Southern Cal is a perennial title contender.

The Big Ten and Big 12 are top heavy, but they regularly get two teams in the BCS.

The SEC is not nearly as deep as its deluded fans claim, but its teams have had the upper hand on ACC rivals in recent years. Georgia owns six consecutive wins over Georgia Tech, South Carolina beat Clemson a year ago and Florida's defeated Florida State three years in a row.

"I don't think the ACC is down, I just think the teams everybody associates with the ACC are," Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice, the ACC's reigning rushing champion, said.

"But the only way for the league to get its reputation back is by winning. By winning BCS games and bowl games. National championships. That's the only way."

Reach Adam Van Brimmer at 404-589-8424 or adam.vanbrimmer@morris.com.


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