AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — The ACC kicked off its annual spring meetings down here today with all of the league's athletic directors, football and men's and women's basketball coaches taking part in discussions on everything ranging from minor rule changes to major big-picture topics like a potential television network. Here are some news and notes from the first day.
- It was a fairly light day, with the athletic directors meeting in the early afternoon and football coaches joining this evening (Sort of. Louisville's contingent is here, Maryland's is not). The bulk of the meetings will take place tomorrow and Wednesday, with the ADs gathering again on Thursday. If there are any significant votes or action, it will come on Thursday.
- The biggest discussion in today's meetings was the possibility of an ACC Network in the future. Commissioner John Swofford said that nothing is imminent, but that the league is definitely moving in that direction. I'll have much more on the ACC's TV future in a story later this week, but given how basically every other league has its own network at this point (sorry, Big East) I would be shocked if it doesn't happen. Also, since pretty much every other league has one, there are plenty of blueprints in place for the ACC to follow and make this network a reality.
- Swofford did also discuss how the league's grant of rights deal, the best thing to happen to the ACC since sliced bread, came about. He said the conference initially began having discussions about a potential grant of rights two years ago, but raised the exit fee twice (to over $50 million) instead.
"At the time, I think there was a sense that with a strong exit fee, maybe [a grant of rights] was necessary, maybe it wasn't necessary."
When Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, that was when the wheels really got set in motion to make the grant of rights a reality. The ACC Council of Presidents released a statement in December affirming their commitment to the league, but Swafford knew something greater (a grant of rights) was needed.
"The words are great, I know you mean them, but this is the action that backs up the words," he said.
From there, some schools (I doubt Pitt was one of them) took a little convincing, but the deal got done, and that has, in Swofford's terms, totally "changed the ballgame" in terms of the ACC and its future.
- I was able to catch up with Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson briefly in between a couple of his meetings and asked him how the overall tone was different this year than it was last year, when he came for the first time and the league was in the midst of heavy expansion/realignment talk (and not in a good way).
"From the time that I went to the first meeting of this league, everybody was so gracious and really in a team approach to this," Pederson said. "I think back to how much I appreciated and enjoyed that. I feel like now with the grant of rights, it has gone to a whole new level. Everybody's on the same page, everybody's doing the same thing together. Everybody's fixated on making the conference better, and I really think that's how you make a conference great is everybody goes all in, everybody's committed to doing this together and what's in the best interest of everybody. That's how you make the conference better."
- Pederson also said that, while he was here last year, the meetings didn't provide the same sort of immediacy they do now. Last year, Pederson could be a part of big picture ACC discussions (bowl tie-ins, TV rights, realignment, etc.) but not really in terms of smaller stuff like officiating and rules changes (where Pitt still had one more year in the Big East). This year, it's all ACC everything for Pitt, which will officially join the conference July 1.
"Instead of sitting in there listening to everything about a year from now, everything is about this fall and who we're playing and what we're doing," he said. "That's the reality of it. We've been planning and so forth but all of a sudden instead of being on the edge of the discussion, you're in the discussion in terms of how everything affects you going forward, and that's important."
- At one point, Pederson walked past with Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman. I can only assume, of course, that they were planning their Labor Day pre-game cookout (Spetman brings the southern barbeque, Pederson brings the Ahrn City?). In all seriousness, Pederson said the two did discuss that game, which Swofford said he would attend on Labor Day.
"[Spetman] was talking about how excited the Florida State people are and I said of course everyone in Pittsburgh is as well," Pederson said. "What a great way to start the season. It's exciting for everybody."