CHARLOTTE, N.C — As 2017 ACC Football Kickoff began on Thursday, ACC commission John Swofford met with the media and addressed a variety of topics, including the ACC Network, Notre Dame, and scandals at Louisville and UNC.
ACC Network: Nothing New to Report
Swofford declined to offer much insight into the development of the ACC Network with ESPN.
“I’m sure some of you may have questions related to the network, but I trust you will understand that we’re at a stage in our timetable and process with ESPN where it’s simply not going to be prudent for us to discuss until we reach the launch, the specific business aspects that are a work in progress,” Swofford said.
Swofford was referring to questions surrounding the launch of the ACC Network, slated to kick off in 2019. ESPN has struggled with the ever-changing cable subscription landscape, and has been forced to cut costs due to high expenses in media rights and decreased revenue from cable and satellite providers. ESPN has laid off dozens of employees on and off-air, sparking further questions about the company’s long-term financial outlook.
Media members wanted to hear Swofford’s take on the matters, but he declined to oblige. Instead, Swofford expressed optimism about the network’s launch and long-term impact.
“Preparing to produce and distribute over 1,500 events between the linear and digital networks requires a lot of planning and preparation and obviously some lead time to do it right and launch it in the way we want to launch it,” Swofford said. “ACC and ESPN teams are diligently working to complete the multiple tasks that are required for the launch, and we’re extremely pleased with the progress. And not only pleased with the progress, we’re, as a part of that, right on schedule.”
For now, Swofford says the ACC is in good position with its media rights, primarily through ESPN and Raycom, as well as the ACC Digital Network.
Divisional Realignment, Addition of Notre Dame Not on the Table
Swofford did field questions regarding conference realignment, in terms of divisional changes within the conference. Coastal teams will often go years without seeing a non-rival from the Atlantic, a problem that Swofford says isn’t unique to the ACC.
“I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that really. I think that’s probably one of the — one of those challenges that any league that gets to 14 [members] has,” Swofford said. “I mean, there’s no easy solution to that. And what’s right for one conference might not be right for another conference. But it’s pretty much — it’s very similar in every league of our size. I think that’s one of the — you know, in an ideal world you’d love for everybody to play everybody.”
For now, the ACC has no plans to redraw the divisional lines.
As with divisional realignment, Swofford said there have been no talks with Notre Dame to bring them into the ACC as a full member. The Fighting Irish currently are a member of all ACC sports except football, and it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon.
“From a conference perspective, and I think Notre Dame would say the same thing, and they have said the same thing to me, this has met every expectation that we had as a conference,” Swofford said. “I think it’s met every expectation that Notre Dame has had. I think it’s been positive for Notre Dame. I think it’s been positive for the ACC. That’s what we thought it would be.
“There wasn’t an expectation that at some point in time Notre Dame would ask for full membership in football. That is not a point of discussion at this given point in time. Obviously, if Notre Dame reached the point where they wanted to have that discussion, we would readily sit down and speak with them about that.”
Moving on From Louisville, North Carolina Scandals
Not all questions were easy for Swofford, as he was asked about the recent scandals concerning Louisville and North Carolina. Swofford said that in order to move on from the incidents and insure they don’t happen again, the conference needs to stress “academics, athletics and integrity.”
“The other thing we do is once these things come to some type of culmination, the school that has had the problem comes before the other 14 schools and, in essence, gives a session on what happened and what they’re doing to correct it, and that’s really based on learning something from it and other schools learning how to avoid it. Most of the time, without getting into particular sessions, it’s not an entire institution. It gets perceived, I guess, as an entire institution, when most of the time it’s a few people that made some bad decisions.”
Swofford said that as much as he’d like to resolve the cases as quickly as possible, there isn’t much he can do as ACC Commisioner.
“I like to get them over with as quickly as possible, but in my role, we really don’t have much impact on that,” Swofford said. “But I always feel like the better approach is to find out what happened, address it, correct it, and as quickly as you can through the process, put it behind you and move on. Sometimes that’s hard to do in today’s processes, but the best day for any league is when you don’t have any of that. So hopefully those will be put to rest and no others coming forward in the near future.”