Maybe not right away, but ACC commissioner John Swofford believes one-and-done is done in college basketball.
“I think so and I hope so,” Swofford said Thursday in a one-on-one interview as the ACC Kickoff wrapped up in Charlotte. “The conversations that I’ve been a part of recently, I think it’s on its way out. Not this year, but soon. And I certainly hope so. And I don’t think that solves all the ills by any means, but I think it will help.”
Swofford said he expects the NBA and NBPA to simply revert to the previous model that allowed 18-year-olds to turn pro directly out of high school, without any requirement for players who do attend college to stay for two years or other restrictions.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week that the Rice Commission evaluating college basketball on the NCAA’s behalf in the wake of the FBI investigation has made it clear to him it doesn’t want one-and-done players coming into the NCAA, and Silver said was ready to take that to the union for discussion.
“My personal view is that we’re ready to make that change,” Silver said.
Swofford also addressed a number of topics of interest within the ACC, from future basketball tournament sites to the possibility of opening basketball season with conference games as the ACC Network launches to the future of ACC e-sports video-game competitions.
On future basketball tournament sites beyond Greensboro in 2020: “I think we’re very close to doing that. I would think that would be coming. I thought we would have it in May. What we’re trying to do, we’re probably looking at two years after Greensboro, but we also want to have under consideration what’s beyond those two years, or have some sense of it, because we don’t want to do something in those two years that prevents us from having an even better rotation the next three years. I expect we’ll make a two-year announcement and I would expect that announcement to be early fall.”
On the status of the ACC Network, which launches next August: “With the channel, everything’s right where it should be. We’re a year away and there will be a lot of activity during this year, much more so – there’s been a lot of activity, there will be even more during the year leading in.”
On launching the network by potentially opening the 2019 football and 2019-20 basketball seasons with a slate of conference games: “There will be some prominent games on the ACC Network. Because it’s important there are some prominent games on the ACC Network. With 20 (basketball) games we’re going to be playing conference games in December anyway. One thought we have talked about is the possibility of starting the season with conference games. Everybody. Especially in the initial or early years of the channel, and it ties into a conversation we were having previously that didn’t have anything to do with the channel. It had to do with how do we find a way to tip off the basketball season better than we’re able to do, and more like the football season kicks off on one weekend – it’s a long weekend, but it kicks off on one weekend. And is there a way to help basketball do that? Because it deserves it. This would be a way to achieve two goals.”
On e-sports opportunities for the ACC: “Do we want to really dip our toe into that? The question there as much as anything is, does that really fit intercollegiate athletics? I think the answer is probably no, but being involved in sponsoring some e-sports events that are tied to our championships, for instance, could turn into revenues for our schools.”
On negotiating a new set of bowl tie-ins beyond 2019: “We’re in really good shape now. I don’t know whether the next round will look a whole lot different, but I do think we’re in the strongest position that we’ve been in. The interesting thing is that, particularly the lower-end bowls, there’s a struggle there with some of the bowl attendance. It’s a different world right now. And one we expected in the sense of the College Football Playoff and the top-heaviness in terms of interest in the postseason with first of all the playoff itself and then the next three games, the playoff six if you will. We expected that to have a trickle-down effect and I think it’s fair to say that it has. There’s some impact there, that’s more than made up for financially at the top end of the playoff and the New Year’s Six. It’s not a net negative at all. It’s a net positive by a long shot. But in terms of the future health of the lower-end of the bowl system, I hope it will continue to be good. That’s in essence a marketplace issue. I think it will be. But there has been an impact.”
On other ways to close the revenue gap with the SEC and Big Ten beyond the network: “I think there are some promotional aspects we as a league we can pursue that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to pursue as a smaller league. Schools have multimedia deals with Learfield, etc. We’re looking into doing something at the conference level that would be similar to institutional deals without being competitive. They’d be meant to be complementary. It would give us a chance to collectively raise some revenue for the schools that unilaterally they could not. Promotional and marketing ideas. We could put something together that included all of our schools whereas the marketer wouldn’t necessarily do it with one school, but would do it with all of them. You do have to finesse it because you don’t want to in any way hurt the institutional deals. We’re looking into that.”
On North Carolina coach Larry Fedora’s assertion Wednesday that football is under attack: “I don’t think it is under attack. I think we have to respect the science and what it is showing us. I think there are, appropriately, concerns about the safety of the game and those who play it. If you love the game and you care about its future, I think we then have to take that respect and evaluate what needs to be done. I think that can range from when young kids start playing the game and how they play it, when does tackle football begin, how is it coached, how it’s taught, should youth coaches be certified and know what they’re doing and how they should teach the game because of the potential injury risk, the rules of the game itself. We started with targeting, and as frustrating as it is to fans at times, it’s absolutely the right thing to do for the players and the game going forward. We talked about the kickoff rule, and I don’t think that’s over. I think there’s probably more to come with that over the next few years. The rules aspect of it is important. I think we need to be working with manufacturing companies in terms of equipment and especially the helmet. There are signs there that should be concerning. If we’re not concerned we’re not at all paying attention.”
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock