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What we learned at the ACC spring meetings

The ACC’s annual spring meetings ended on Thursday with the primary question that surrounded them – whether the conference is any closer to reaching a resolution about a TV channel – left unanswered.

Not that there wasn’t a lot of discussion about TV. It was among the most important topics on the agenda at the spring meetings, although the behind-closed-door discussions came with no shortage of secrecy.

While we didn’t learn about the TV situation, ACC Commissioner John Swofford provided insights when he addressed reporters on Thursday. TV, though, was but one of many topics the conference’s leadership broached behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton.

After four days of meetings and a 30-minute conversation with Swofford, here’s what we learned:

1. Swofford and the ACC continue to be patient on the TV front.

Swofford repeated some of his familiar talking points on Thursday. Nonetheless, there were a couple of revelations amid the familiar script Swofford has been using for years, even if you had to read between the lines to find them.

For one, Swofford emphasized the ACC’s history as a visionary (his word). He also emphasized, without actually coming out and saying it, exactly, how much the ACC is interested in emerging technology. Swofford noted that discussions with ESPN, its primary TV partner, aren’t just about rights fees and traditional TV talk.

No, Swofford said, “there’s a lot more negotiations about developing businesses together that are a partnership.” So what would such a business look like between the ACC and ESPN? Some sort of streaming service, perhaps? Live sports on demand? We shall see.

2. HB2 could affect North Carolina’s ability to host ACC championships and events.

Swofford said the conference isn’t considering moving events that have already been scheduled in North Carolina. That means that the football championship game, scheduled for Charlotte through 2019, isn’t going anywhere. The men’s basketball tournament is out of the state the next two seasons, anyway.

The ACC has adopted the same policy the NCAA recently enacted –the conference is requiring championship host cities, and venues, to provide a commitment that they’ll furnish a non-discriminatory environment of inclusiveness. If the league receives those assurances from its championship hosts in North Carolina, those events will remain there as scheduled.

The question is what becomes of events that don’t yet have a home. Could HB2, the state law that prevents transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify, preclude these events from being in North Carolina? It could, Swofford said.

3. A centralized “collaborative” replay system is coming to the ACC.

And here’s how it will work, roughly: Plays that are under review will be examined both by the replay official who is at the game, but also by a replay official, or officials (the number hasn’t been officially decided, but it’d likely range from two to three per game), back at league headquarters in Greensboro.

Those officials – the ones on site and the ones at league headquarters – will then work in tandem to make sure a call is correct. The idea isn’t for the guys back at headquarters to “overrule” the crew that’s working the game. It’s about working together.

The idea, too, is to decrease the likelihood of mistakes. And more eyeballs, and more checks and balances, should make hope a reality. The logistics have yet to be finalized, but “collaborative replay,” which is what the ACC is calling it, is coming to every ACC stadium and every ACC game.

Right now it’s only experimental for the 2016 season. But there’s a strong chance that this becomes a permanent part of ACC games. The ACC is the first conference to do this, but others are considering it.

Here’s what Swofford said about the use of a centralized replay hub:

“We’re going to jump in significantly with the opportunity to experiment with collaborative replay in football. I know you know that the coaches were unanimously for that. I felt like we needed to be aggressive in being a part of this experimentation. So we will utilize that for the ’16 season.

“It will be in every stadium, every venue. It will be used in every game. And that will give us an opportunity to see how it works. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from it, but we want to do everything that we can do to enhance officiating.”

4. Divisional realignment in football is a completely dead issue.

Football coaches had discussed it in their meetings for as long as some of them could remember. This year, though, there was no discussion whatsoever of making any changes to the divisions.

UNC coach Larry Fedora said this was the first time in his tenure at North Carolina that this topic didn’t come up. So rest in peace, divisional realignment discussions. Enjoy your rich afterlife on Internet message boards everywhere.

5. A 20-game conference schedule in basketball is likely only a matter of time.

The idea didn’t receive enough support to generate a coaches’ vote, but, nonetheless, it appears to be gaining some traction. N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried is in favor of it, for one.

Several others are warming to the idea, although UNC’s Roy Williams said he doesn’t think a 20-game schedule would make a difference. So it has its share of critics, too.

In theory, a 20-game schedule would provide ACC teams with an RPI boost, because they’d be playing a more difficult schedule overall. A higher RPI is good for the ol’ NCAA tournament resume, and strong NCAA tournament resumes generally come in handy on Selection Sunday.

If a 20-game schedule eventually becomes a reality – and it probably will, though maybe not for another several years – it will be because coaches will come to believe that it enhances their chances of making the NCAA tournament. If the ACC goes to a 20-game league schedule, though, that’d likely mean the end of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

6. The ACC is against satellite camps but allowing its coaches to use them.

Satellite camps have been in the news a lot during the past several months, what with their brief nationwide ban and then their return. The ACC opposes them. And some ACC coaches, Fedora and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, to name two, are adamantly opposed to them.

Even so, the conference is allowing its schools to use satellite camps, mainly because the ACC doesn’t want its opposition to them to create any kind of disadvantage. Said Swofford:

“We’ve been very consistent with our believe that it’s not in the best interest of college football and the whole calendar and recruiting process and quality of life for coaches and et cetera. … We still think it’s a bad idea but we’re not going to put our people at a disadvantage if they want do it.

“And we will continue to support not having those camps.”

So there you have it: the main discussion points from the ACC’s spring meetings.

TV talk, HB2, a centralized replay hub, rumblings of a 20-game conference schedule in basketball, satellite camp discussion … for a relatively quiet week there was a pretty good amount of important takeaways after four days on the Florida coast.

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