ACC officially welcomes Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2013 

In a move that was two years in the making, the ACC has officially welcomed Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the conference.

That was old news. Perhaps most newsworthy from the two-day event was the fact that it was held in New York City, and not Greensboro, the traditional home of the conference.

“We wanted to showcase the Atlantic Coast Conference in New York City and to show that this is a very important part of our new footprint,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said Monday.

The ACC welcoming party lasted two days in New York City, with mascots from every school parading around different landmarks (the Maryland terrapin was included even though the school will spend one season in the new-look ACC before leaving for the Big 10 in 2014. Louisville, not present in New York, will join the ACC that year, too). The welcoming event concluded with representatives from the conference ringing the NASDAQ closing bell.

Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer, former Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim and the mascots joined Swofford for the closing bell. North Carolina’s Roy Williams, originally scheduled to attend, was not in attendance.

Earlier in the day, Swofford and the coaches spoke about the benefits of the new ACC, ranging from the level of competition to marketing opportunities. As Swofford and several others reiterated many times, the conference has the most television households and highest population of any conference nationally. By 2030, 55 percent of the U.S. population is projected to fall within the ACC’s “footprint,” the buzzword of the day.

Virginia Tech’s Beamer sees a connection between the ACC’s market share and its ability to field quality football teams.

“When you’re talking about the most population, the most TV households, that goes right back to affecting your recruiting,” Beamer said. “We’re going to increase our recruiting, we’re going to be getting better, and, as Jimbo said, have a chance to compete for the national championship. Everything that has happened helps us in that regard.”

While time will tell if the expansion helps long-underperforming ACC football (Notre Dame will keep its football independence while playing five games against ACC opponents annually), it’s hard to dispute the idea that the league has the best basketball conference going forward. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (957 wins), Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (902) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (700) have long been among the coaching greats of the sport.

Even Boeheim, who initially wasn’t excited about the move to the ACC – as early as September 2011 he was disparaging Greensboro as a conference tournament site and made a remark in January about giving up his favorite Big East city restaurants for Denny’s in Clemson – had nice things to say Monday about the switch.

“The ACC has been a great basketball league long, long before any other league was a great basketball league,” Boeheim said. “It was the premiere league when I started in coaching before we were in a league. And it’s stayed there consistently for 40 years. Everybody is looking forward to the games that are going to come. The Duke games, Syracuse-Duke, Syracuse-North Carolina, all the games that quickly will become the great, or a great, game in college basketball.”

Boeheim may get his original wish and have the ACC Tournament moved to New York City – a long-rumored idea that Swofford said will ultimately be left up to the schools (who will receive information from the league’s television partner, ESPN). But if Monday’s showcase in the Big Apple was any indication, the once-regional league may opt to move its greatest basketball showcase to the country’s biggest media market.

“The Atlantic Coast Conference has great history and great tradition,” Swofford said. “And now we have a much stronger base, a much broader footprint, and, as I said earlier, opportunities available to us that had not been available in the past.”

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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