ACC wants to expand NCAA tournament by four teams

Former UNC basketball player David Noel had a lot to say about Duke's loss to Kansas

Like many Tar Heels fans, former UNC basketball player David Noel relished Duke’s loss to Kansas on Sunday evening in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight. Noel, played under Coach Roy Williams and helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2005 NCAA title.
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Like many Tar Heels fans, former UNC basketball player David Noel relished Duke’s loss to Kansas on Sunday evening in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight. Noel, played under Coach Roy Williams and helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2005 NCAA title.

While the ACC exited its spring meetings without any formal recommendations regarding the Rice Commission's report on the future of college basketball, it certainly had something to say about the sport. The conference voted to propose legislation to the NCAA that would expand the tournament from 68 to 72 teams, essentially duplicating the First Four.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the conference also voted to propose a package of rule changes that included moving back the 3-point line, widening the lane and resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound, but passed on the other rules trialed during the NIT that included moving from halves to quarters and changes to fouls and the bonus.

The expansion proposal came from the ACC coaches, who noted the number of football teams that have postseason opportunities compared to basketball.

"The idea of having two First Fours, if you will, maybe geographic," Swofford said. "That's such a quick turnaround. You could have one maybe in Dayton and one in the western part of the states. But we will be proposing that."

Those were the biggest proposals out of the spring meetings after the ACC decided to leave the mechanics of the more epochal changes proposed by the Rice Commission to a set of NCAA working groups that will spend the summer trying to deal with various parts of the commission's mandate by August. There are seven ACC representatives on those NCAA working groups, Swofford said.

"I think it's a little premature to get into specifics before there's a little bit more of evolvement," Swofford said. "We'll see. I don't want to get out ahead of the train. We want to be right with it as it moves along."

The ACC will also propose football legislation that creates recruiting dead periods in February and July, restricts the spring recruiting period to four out of six weeks from the current six weeks and prohibits verbal offers to prospects before Sept. 1 of their junior year. That's largely fallout from the new December signing period, which the ACC originally proposed and continues to support, Swofford said.

There was also considerable discussion about kickoffs and their role in the future of the sport, but without any consensus on recommendations for the rules committee.

“We talked about how the game is changing, and how we need to preserve the game but make it safer for the players,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “We get into it, so we get a feel for how everybody feels in the league. You've got 15 guys in the room and not everybody is going to agree with everything, and that's fine, we're OK with that."

Among other topics Swofford discussed Thursday morning:

-- Swofford noted the ACC's recent success, with recent national titles in football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball.

– Discussion continues about future ACC tournament sites, with nothing decided beyond 2020. Swofford said he had hoped the conference might have been able to make a decision this week.

“We did have some discussion here and expected to,” he said. “I don't think it will be that long before we're able to pull this together. I do think it'll be a rotation of some kind."

– The ACC Network remains on track for its 2019 launch and revenue projections remain stable, especially after ESPN was able to reach a deal for carriage with New York cable provider Altice. More carriage deals will be negotiated as ESPN's current agreements expire.

"That is really, in every way shape and form, where we would want it to be at this given time," Swofford said. "You can feel the energy picking up."

– The ACC supports the NCAA's position, announced Thursday, calling for federal oversight of legalized sports gambling.

"We're going to have to learn what impact it really has on us," Swofford said. "But you know what the effort's going to be, to protect the integrity of the games."

– There was considerable discussion at all levels -- coaches, administrators, faculty representatives -- about the NCAA's continuing evaluation of liberalizing the transfer process, albeit without any concrete conclusions.

“I don't think this going to turn into a free-for-all and a total free market,” Swofford said. “I just don't see that coming. And there's not support for that. But I think there's support for what I would say would be a reasonable approach to giving more flexibility to it. What we're trying to do is find the right balance.”

-- The ACC has invited athlete representatives to its meetings for the past three years and will hold an athlete mental health and wellness summit next spring at their instigation.

-- Swofford said his future beyond the expiration of his contract in 2020 was "not on my radar right now. There's plenty of time to think about that."

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947,, @LukeDeCock

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