ACC title game could stay in Charlotte

Panthers' Richardson, league commissioner Swofford cite early success of city as host

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comNovember 18, 2011 

When Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was asked Thursday if he has lobbied to keep the ACC football championship at Bank of America Stadium beyond this year, he couldn't keep from laughing.

"What do you think the answer to that question is," Richardson said. "You do know where the game is being played, do you not?"

Though nothing is official, it appears virtually certain the ACC championship game will remain in Charlotte at least for the near future, given the Dec. 3 game is already a sellout with only Clemson assured of a spot in the game. This is the second game in a two-year contract and ACC commissioner John Swofford said a new deal for future games is likely before the end of the year.

"I think our performance will warrant it continuing to be here," Richardson said after hearing Swofford speak to a group of local business leaders who have supported the championship game and the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl.

The ACC championship has previously been played in Jacksonville, Fla., and Tampa, Fla.

It's possible the ACC might not even accept requests for proposals (RFPs) for the next contract, given the two-year success in Charlotte.

"We haven't opened it up for RFPs at this point in time. We just haven't gone there yet," Swofford said.

Swofford said the league has considered having the championship game at an on-campus site as the Pac-12 and other conferences do, though it's more likely it will stay in Charlotte.

"Certainly the success for the second year in a row of the game here in Charlotte is very, very encouraging," Swofford said.

The commissioner said having the championship game sold out in advance is a primary goal. Will Webb, executive director of Charlotte Collegiate Football, said Clemson has received about 23,000 requests for the 10,000 tickets allocated to each division champion. Either Virginia or Virginia Tech will be the opponent.

"We're in a situation we all want to be in," Swofford said. "You always want to have some people outside wanting to get in. We're going to have that situation here."

During his comments at the luncheon Thursday at Quail Hollow Club, Swofford acknowledged the image of ACC football has been hurt by NCAA investigations into the programs at North Carolina, Miami and Georgia Tech.

"We've had some issues the past year. I'm not very proud of those issues," Swofford said. "They don't fit our commitment.

"It's very easy to stub your toe with NCAA violations...What we have with three programs going through NCAA investigations, it's very rare for the ACC. It only gives us more resolve for the league to do things the right way.

"I see this as a snapshot. If you look at a photo album of the ACC over the last 10 or 15 years, we've had fewer major NCAA violations than any other league by far. The snapshot, I don't like. The photo album, we do like."

Swofford also said he doesn't foresee the ACC adding any more schools beyond Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the near future.

"This has been a period of instability...I've never seen anything like it," said Swofford, in his 15th year as ACC commissioner. "I think the ACC has come out ahead of the game with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse. We have created a 14-team league that has sustainability."

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