AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — All the coaches went home this afternoon, but not before stopping and chatting with us for a little bit. The athletic directors will stick around for tomorrow, which is when any votes will take place. With that, here's a rundown from today at the Ritz...
- Paul Chryst was at last year's ACC meetings, but this year's had a little bit more immediacy since the Panthers will be joining the ACC this season. He said that, while the coaches are only tangentially involved with most big-picture discussion, he likes the direction the league is heading.
"It's impressive and energizing when they explain to you what [the grant of rights] really means," Chryst said. "We talk about the footprint of the ACC, the number of households it reaches. The growth or the projected growth of the region is. In that way, it sure seems like things are positioned well. Absolutely there's energy. It seems like through the stability there's some energy to it."
- Chryst also spoke about Pitt's future football rivalries. While the move to the ACC has many positives, Pitt doesn't really have a natural rival in the conference. For that matter, the Panthers haven't had one in any sense since West Virginia came off the schedule. Chryst isn't a guy who spends a lot of time thinking about rivalries or anything other than the next game he has to coach, but he thinks Pitt will develop some good series within the ACC, as well as the upcoming games against Penn State.
"The one thing I do believe is there's plenty of really good teams that can get our players to bring a lot of energy to those games," Chryst said. "And rivalries kind of come out of playing, having good games with teams, games that matter. I don't think we're short of rivalry opportunities."
As for that West Virginia rivalry, Chryst said he certainly understood how spirited it was (he was a gradutate assistant for the Mountaineers in 1989 and '90) and wouldn't be opposed to seeing the series revived.
"I appreciate what it is," Chryst said. "Now how it fits, it was a lot different climate then. Both were independent. Now you've got two different conferences, that's not going to be a lead concern of mine right now."
From the feelings I've gotten around the athletic department, restarting the West Virginia series is very, very low on Pitt's priority list. They would much prefer extending the long-term series with Penn State. The ACC is sticking with an eight-game schedule, though, which opens up a non-conference spots in years when Notre Dame isn't on the schedule (assuming one FCS opponent, one MAC-level opponent and Penn State). I think Steve Pederson would like to avoid playing West Virginia and Penn State in the same year, so we'll see what happens.
- One of the more interesting ideas I've heard floated around down here is the concept of a rotating bowl schedule, in which bowl spots would move around within a conference and possibly even between different conferences. This would be aimed at avoiding rematches, preventing teams from going to the same bowl year after year (helllooooooo, Birmingham). Pederson said his ultimate goal would be a system where conference commissioners could work with bowl executives to create the most appealing matchups, like the Backyard Brawl in New York last year that never came to fruition.
"There are some very logical types of matchups that could happen if the system allows it to happen," Pederson said.
- Pederson deferred to ACC commissioner John Swofford when asked about his thoughts on a potential ACC Network, but was effusive in his praise for Swofford and how he has guided the conference through the morass of realignment.
"I think the opportunities for us are limitless," Pederson said. "He's done such a good job guiding us through all of this and taking the right next steps that I think as we explore what future next steps, I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities. I think right now we need to keep this open-ended and get to the right answer here."
- Pitt basketball coach Jamie Dixon said there was some (though it sounded minimal) discussion about re-raising the idea of a $2,000 stipend for student-athletes. The NCAA originally passed a rule approving the stipend, but it was then overturned by a majority of its member institutions. It sounds like Pitt, as an institution, is very much in favor of the stipend.
"Pitt, Steve [Pederson] has been on the forefront of that," Dixon said. "He's really been on the forefront of that and been supportive of that."
- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spoke about the ACC's perception as the lowest conference of the so-called Power Five. In short, he doesn't agree with it.
"There's a perception that you would thing the ACC is like the bottom [feeders], and that's so far from reality," Swinney said. "The SEC has been top shelf, they've earned that through getting it done on the field. We're right behind the SEC in recruiting, we're right behind the SEC in developing our players to the NFL, we're right behind the SEC in Pro Bowlers. Yet we're tops of all conferences academically."
Swinney was blunt when asked what the ACC can do to improve its reputation.
"You've gotta win!" he said. "It's not rocket science."
Swinney was asked if he agreed with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' comments that the SEC was essentially a top-heavy conference where its leaders benefited from a weak bottom.
"I think the SEC's earned everything they've got," Swinney said. "The SEC has earned it, period. They've produced a champion. Yeah, now like I said, there's been three or four dominant teams in that league where somebody's carried the baton. It's like the 4x100, somebody's carrying the baton. We haven't had anybody carry the baton yet, but hopefully we can get that going. You're never going to have all your teams being dominant in any given year."
And, finally, what it's like playing against an SEC team, where every game turns into a referendum on your league versus the ESS-EEE-SEE (Clemson beat LSU, 25-24, in the Chick-fil-A Bowl this year).
"You'd think we were getting ready to play 14 teams," Swinney said. "Those are the three letters I was worried about, 'L-S-U' not 'S-E-C.' Yet the perception, because y'all [the media] and the TV people, it's 'We're going to play the SEC.'"
- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke after the meetings today about his school's new place in the league. Here are a few choice sections...
On the ACC being the highest-rated academic BCS conference: "A lot of concern about missed class days, for example, the schedule. Stuff schools really care about. We have an incredibly rigorous missed class policy at Notre Dame, our kids can only miss three classes in a semester, so we have to schedule that way. This is a pretty good environment to be having that conversation in."
On the grant of rights deal: "We came in not assuming that it would and we had confidence in the conference. I think the reasons to be a member of this conference are compelling. But certainly it's an added benefit, if you will. For us, it was almost the broader implications for the collegiate sports industry. I think our industry was paying a price, as we all recognize, for all for all of the movement that was going on, and I think the impact of that on the broader industry. I think we are going to have a period of significant stability, and that's really a good thing. That's the way we most thought about it, not that the ACC presented some risk without it.
- Swarbrick had a lot to say about the possibility of the ACC playing a game or series of games overseas in Europe. It's something that Swofford has raised before, and Swarbrick knows firsthand. Notre Dame beat Navy 50-10 in Dublin to open this season.
"I think it ranks at the very top of the experiences I've had at the university," Swarbrick said. "It was remarkable. Our student athletes had a great time. It was interesting because I would tell you they were probably reluctant when we boarded the plane. Not sure they wanted to be there. To a person, they just loved it. There's a lot of magic in what happened over there in those days. It's a great thing for American universities to do, so many of them have overseas campuses. It's really great for football. There's a real curiosity about football, especially college athletics. The college athletic model doesn't transfer in Europe or Asia, which is all club-based."
And what were the most common questions Dubliners had for Swarbrick about American college football?
"The two questions I got all the time in my time there was, one, about the size of the players, because they just didn't translate. They were assuming it was a metric conversion problem, but no they really are that big. The other was cheerleaders. They don't have them. They asked, 'Why do you have them? How do you pick them? What's the deal? Can you leave some behind?'"
And that's all for today. Like I said, the coaches are all gone but the ADs will meet tomorrow and vote on any topics. I don't expect any ground-breaking decisions to come out of tomorrow, but Swofford will brief the media on any results after they're done.