The skinny Archive

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Fan guide to UNC’s home opener vs. Liberty

unclibertyNorth Carolina opens its 124th college football season on Saturday, Aug. 30, when the Tar Heels host Liberty of the Big South Conference at 6 p.m. It’s the season opener for a pair of teams looking to build off the momentum of strong finishes from a year ago. Carolina won six of its last seven in 2013, including a 39-17 win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, while the Flames reeled off five straight victories to end the year.

Saturday’s game is the first meeting between Carolina and Liberty on the gridiron. The two institutions squared off in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1994 with the No. 1 Tar Heels prevailing, 71-51.

Carolina is 1-1 in season openers under head coach Larry Fedora. In 2012, the Tar Heels knocked off Elon, 63-0, in Fedora’s debut as UNC’s coach. Last year, Carolina fell at No. 6 South Carolina on a Thursday night in Columbia, 27-10. A win over Liberty would be Fedora’s 50th as a head coach.

Carolina has won five of its last seven season openers. All five came against FCS competition.

Liberty is coached by Turner Gill, who is in his third season with the Flames. Gill previously was the head coach at Buffalo and Kansas.

AT A GLANCE
Records: North Carolina 0-0, Liberty 0-0
Rankings: Carolina is ranked No. 23 in both the AP poll and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. Liberty is receiving votes in the Sports Network FCS Top 25.
TV: ESPN3 (click to watch). Ryan Rose (play-by-play), Forrest Conoly (analyst) and Angela Mallen (sideline) have the call.
Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network (click to listen), a division of Learfield Communications. Jones Angell (play-by-play), Ethan Albright (analyst) and Lee Pace (sideline) have the call.
Twitter: @TarHeelFootball, @CoachFedora | @LibertyFootball, @LibertyTGill

QUICK HITS
• Carolina is ranked No. 23 in both The Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 Polls. It is the first time the Tar Heels have been ranked since 2010. That year, Carolina began the season No. 18 in the AP poll, but lost to No. 21 LSU in the season opener in Atlanta.
• Carolina had just six scholarship seniors on its 2014 training camp roster and just one senior starter on offense – tight end Jack Tabb.
• Carolina’s offensive line has just 43 starts to its credit led by junior offensive guard Landon Turner with 17. Jon Heck started all 13 games last year at right tackle and Caleb Peterson started 12 at left guard. Offensive tackle Kiaro Holts started one game in 2012 vs. Idaho.
• Carolina looks to continue its outstanding special teams play from a year ago. In 2013, the Tar Heels ranked first in the country in punt returns, 10th in net punting and 19th in kickoff returns.

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Notre Dame favored to win ACC men’s soccer title; Heels third

notredamesoccerDefending national champion Notre Dame is the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s soccer preseason favorite, according to a vote of the league’s 12 head coaches.

The Irish were named by six coaches as this year’s team to beat, followed by Virginia with three first-place votes, North Carolina with two, and Louisville with one.

Notre Dame, with 64 points, was also named by six coaches as the favorite in the Coastal Division, edging out 2013 Men’s College Cup participant Virginia, which had four first-place votes and 62 points. North Carolina (53 points) received two nods for the division and was picked third, followed by Duke (37), Virginia Tech (23), and Pitt (13).

League newcomer Louisville was picked as the Atlantic Division favorite, receiving nine of a possible 12 first-place votes while totaling 69 total points. Wake Forest (57 points) and Clemson (50) both collected first-place votes, and are followed in the poll by NC State (30), Boston College (26), and Syracuse (20).

A national-best six ACC squads earned NCAA bids in 2013. Three advanced to the NCAA College Cup, marking the 13th straight year with at least one league team in the semifinals. Notre Dame’s championship marked the sixth title by an ACC team in the last nine years and the 16th in league history.

The 2014 season, which gets underway on Friday, Aug. 29, marks the first for the league under a divisional format. Each team will play every other squad in its division, plus three crossover games. The two division winners are guaranteed one of the top two seeds for the ACC Championship.

The 10-team ACC Championship will be held in early November, with first round games slated for Wednesday, Nov. 5, quarterfinals for Sunday, Nov. 9, semifinals on Friday, Nov. 14, and the championship on Sunday, Nov. 16. The first round and quarterfinals will be held at campus sites, with the semifinals and final at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.


2014 ACC MEN’S SOCCER PRESEASON COACHES POLL

(first place votes)

Overall Champion
Notre Dame (6)
Virginia (3)
North Carolina (2)
Louisville (1)

Atlantic Division
1. Louisville (9) 69
2. Wake Forest (2) 57
3. Clemson (1) 50
4. NC State 30
5. Boston College 26
6. Syracuse 20

Coastal Division
1. Notre Dame (6) 64
2. Virginia (4) 62
3. North Carolina (2) 53
4. Duke 37
5. Virginia Tech 23
6. Pitt 13

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UNC women’s soccer team picked to finish third in ACC

UNC coach Anson Dorrance.

UNC coach Anson Dorrance.

North Carolina’s women’s soccer team finds themselves in an unfamiliar situation. The Tar Heels, who open the season at home Friday night against Stanford, received just one first-place vote in a poll by the league’s 14 head coaches.

UNC did rank No. 8 in a national preseason poll issued by Top Drawer Soccer but that poll had the Tar Heels the fourth best ACC team, behind Virginia Tech.

Florida State was chosen to repeat as the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s soccer champion.

The Seminoles received eight first-place votes en route to 189 total points, followed by Virginia (five first-place votes, 183 points) and North Carolina (one first-place vote, 166 points).

Virginia Tech placed fourth in the voting, followed by Duke, Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Boston College placed eighth, followed by Clemson, Louisville, Syracuse, Miami, NC State and Pitt.

FSU, Virginia and Virginia Tech were all participants in the 2013 NCAA Women’s College Cup. A total of eight ACC teams were selected for last year’s NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship, including all four number-one seeds. It marked the first time in NCAA history that all four number one seeds had come from the same conference

Virginia leads the 2014 Coaches’ Preseason All-ACC Team with three selections among the 11 members, including 2013 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Morgan Brian. In addition to Brian, the preseason All-ACC teams features three more returning NSCAA All-Americans in Florida State’s Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Virginia’s Makenzy Doniak and Danielle Colaprico. Those four, along with Notre Dame’s Cari Roccaro and North Carolina’s Summer Green, were named to the 2014 MAC Hermann Watch List.

ACC teams are set to open regular-season play this Friday, with the first conference games slated for Friday, Sept. 19. The top four teams in the final league standings will advance to the ACC Championship, scheduled for Nov. 7 and Nov. 9 at the UNC Greensboro Soccer Stadium.

Preseason ACC Coaches Poll

1. Florida State (189 points, 8 first place votes)
2. Virginia (183, 5)
3. North Carolina (166, 1)
4. Virginia Tech (150)
5. Duke (135)
6. Notre Dame (128)
7. Wake Forest (104)
8. Boston College (95)
9. Clemson (79)
10. Louisville (72)
11. Syracuse (56)
12. Miami (44)
13. NC State (42)
14. Pitt (16)

Preseason All-ACC Team

Morgan Brian, Sr., M, Virginia
Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Sr., M, Florida State
Danielle Colaprico, Sr., M, Virginia
Makenzy Doniak, Jr., F, Virginia
Christina Gibbons, So., D, Duke
Summer Green, Jr., F, North Carolina
Kristin Grubka, Sr., D, Florida State
Stephanie McCaffrey, Sr., F, Boston College
Ashley Meier, Jr., M, Virginia Tech
Cari Roccaro, Jr., M/D, Notre Dame
Kailen Sheridan, So, GK, Clemson

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McCraw, Rhodes lead West Raleigh to Ripken Series title

Team Southeast from West Raleigh, representing the USA, defeated Mexico 5-2 Saturday in the World Championship game of the 2014 Cal Ripken World Series. West Raleigh got all the runs it needed in the first inning. With a 1-0 lead, West Raleigh catcher Lane Rhodes slammed an opposite field three-run homer to right center to give the USA a 4-0 advantage. In the third, West Raleigh’s Nolan McClean lifted a […]

Garrett McCraw.

Garrett McCraw.

Team Southeast from West Raleigh, representing the USA, defeated Mexico 5-2 Saturday in the World Championship game of the 2014 Cal Ripken World Series.

West Raleigh got all the runs it needed in the first inning. With a 1-0 lead, West Raleigh catcher Lane Rhodes slammed an opposite field three-run homer to right center to give the USA a 4-0 advantage.

Lane Rhodes.

Lane Rhodes.


In the third, West Raleigh’s Nolan McClean lifted a fastball over the left center field wall to extend the lead to 5-0.

Mexico’s Jesus Castillo popped a two-run homer in the fourth to narrow the USA lead to 5-2. But West Raleigh’s pitcher Garrett McCraw buckled down and went on to toss a complete game while striking out seven Mexico batters. McCraw, who gave up only five hits, retired 10 batters in a row at one point. He also scored the first run of the game when Matthew Willadsen drove him in after he had delivered a bloop double.

With one on and two out in the final inning, Mexico’s Castillo’s ripped what looked like a single to right but outfielder McClean fielded it quickly and cleanly and fired to Penn Sealey at first to throw out Castillo to end the game.

West Raleigh has had a strong program for several years, appearing in the tournament numerous times, but it was the first time the team has won the World Series title. West Raleigh won the USA championship in 2004 and in 2013 but fell in the World Series International Game.

West Raleigh coach Ryan Holjes brushed aside tears as the players and fans celebrated the title. “This is unbelievable man, just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s surreal, it’s more than we could ever dreamed of.”

A U.S.-based team had not won the title since 2009.

The Cal Ripken World Series features teams of 11-year-old and 12-year-old baseball players from throughout the world playing in Aberdeen, Md.

The tournament is named after retired Orioles iron man Cal Ripken Jr. It’s similar to Little League except teams play on a field with 70-foot base paths and a 50-foot pitching distance as compared to Little League’s 60-foot base paths and a 46-foot pitching distance.

McCraw was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament as he sported a 3-0 tournament record along with two home runs. Rhodes was chosen as Most Outstanding Player in the championship game. Outfielder Paul Ryder was the Most Outstanding Player of the U.S. championship game Friday. He slugged a 3-run homer in West Raleigh’s 7-5 victory over Harford (Md.).

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College football playoff to be exciting… and expensive

cfpSo it’s not exactly like having 64 (or 65) teams vying for a national championship in a tournament like basketball but those who have been clamoring for a playoff will see one for college football this season.

Four teams will face off in two bowls games with the two winners playing a national championship game Jan. 12 at North Texas.

This year and for the immediate future there will be three bowl games played on New Year’s Eve and three on New Year’s Day. The College Football Playoff Foundation hopes this not only keep bowls relevant but it starts a tradition of football watching on New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day.

The semi-final playoff games this year will be on New Year’s Day while the games shift to New Year’s Eve next season.

The Sugar and Rose bowls will host the top four teams this season while the Orange and Cotton host next season and the Peach and Fiesta the year after that. The same combination of bowls will host the semi-finals for at least three more years after that.

A college bowl selection committee, rather than a computer system or a writer’s or coaches’ poll, will choose the top four teams to play for the national title. In addition to record, the blue ribbon panel will consider strength of schedule, head to head competition, results against common opponents and championships won.

The idea behind this entire plan, said Mike Kelly from the College Football Playoff group, is to keep the bowl tradition, not infringe on the academic calendar and still make the regular season count.

Revenues should double or triple what they were under the old BCS system, Kelly said. College Football Playoff merchandising income will go to the Foundation arm, which will support various related causes such as rewarding good teachers.

The championship game itself, which will be held 7-12 days after the semi-final games (this season on Jan. 12), will bring in substantial revenue as well. Tickets won’t be cheap at $450 each. Kelly notes that’s half of the price of a Super Bowl ticket. There will also be an entire championship game experience similar to the Super Bowl activities.

“Of course the ticket price for the CFP championship game had nothing to do with Super Bowl price,” Kelly said. “Last year’s national championship game was $385 at the Rose Bowl and that was proven to be below market value. With a new event and with a stadium of the highest quality we felt that going up to $450 was reasonable.”

In today’s climate, I suppose it could be considered reasonable but certainly not for the average family of four. ESPN will be the way to go for most families.

Look for the first College Football Playoff rankings from the committee to begin on Oct. 28 with the final rankings coming out after the conference championship games are complete.

There will be a selection Sunday similar to announcing the basketball tournament. Announcements will be made about the bowl matchups for the six bowls games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, including the semi-finalists.

While the committee plans to keep lower ranked teams from getting a home-field edge, it could happen. For instance, with the games being at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, consider the far-fetched example that if the top four teams in order are Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and Southern Cal.

Either Southern Cal or UCLA, both lower ranked teams, would get to play at the Rose Bowl. It will be interesting to see how the next three seasons play out.

2014-15
Fiesta Bowl – Dec. 31
Orange Bowl – Dec. 31
Peach Bowl – Dec. 31
Cotton Bowl – Jan. 1
Rose Bowl – Jan. 1 (semi-final)
Sugar Bowl – Jan. 1 (semi-final)

Championship game at North Texas Jan. 12

2015-2016
Cotton Bowl – Dec. 31 (semi-final)
Orange Bowl – Dec. 31 (semi-final)
Peach Bowl – Dec. 31
Fiesta Bowl – Jan. 1
Rose Bowl – Jan. 1
Sugar Bowl – Jan. 1

Championship game at Arizona Jan. 11

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State football not winning yet but making strides

statehelmetOk, NC State didn’t win a football game in ACC play a year ago but there appears to be excitement around the program heading into the 2014 season.

Wolfpack 2nd year coach Dave Doeren said the fans have been “very encouraging” and supportive.

“They want what we want and we want to give ‘em what they want,” Doeren said at the ACC Football Kickoff event Monday in Greensboro. “They were very appreciative of our recruiting efforts. And they came to the spring game and saw our progress. Now we need to go out and play.”

He tempered the enthusiasm a bit by adding that it’s going to take time. “It just is,” he said. “We inherited a team that didn’t have a lot of depth but we’re making a lot of progress – in a lot of areas.”

While rival North Carolina has been taking a beating over academic issues, Doeren is prideful about his team’s academic success and took plenty of time to take about it.

“We had the highest team GPA (a 2.71 grade point average) in the spring that they’ve had in 15 years,” he said adding that it’s the first time in the history of the football program that it hasn’t had a player ineligible going into the summer.”

I didn’t know such stats were kept but that is impressive. “Academically we’ve made a lot of strides,” Doeren said. “We continue to push guys off the field to make those strides. It puts us in a position where we’re not losing players… For instance, we have eight players in post-graduate programs right now, which is great.”

In addition to hiring an additional person to help with academics, the coaches have become very involved on a day-to-day basis, he said. They make sure they are on time for class and generally hold them accountable for academic excellence.

“We get information daily from our academic center and we communicate that information to our athletes and their parents,” Doeren said. “We have a hands-on approach academically with our team. I talk about it a lot – I demand it from them. It’s transparent.”

Doeren said in addition to seeing how much weight they can lift and how many squats they can do, their GPAs are recorded on the wall. “They don’t want to have bad information on the wall. It’s important for them to look good which is part of why we do it,” he said.

Another change this season will be the Wolfpack uniformly, primarily the helmet. “We have a lot of tradition with our uniform and I don’t take that lightly one bit,” Doeren said. “It’s important to respect your tradition. I also know that in today’s world and in recruiting, kids like to have some bling, some flash but I didn’t want it to take away from our tradition.”

The helmet maintains the red, gray and black coloring but not really much white. In addition, a wolf’s eyes peer out the back of the helmet. “It definitely honors the wolf,” Doeren said. “I thought it was a good blend of tradition and flare. Our players loved it.”

New matching uniforms will be coming in soon. Will the wins follow? One thing at a time.

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FSU picked to win ACC title; Duke chosen 2nd in Coastal

accfootballDefending national champion Florida State is the consensus choice to repeat as Atlantic Division champion and defeat Miami in the 10th annual Dr Pepper Atlantic Coast Conference Football Championship Game, according to a poll of media members in attendance at the 2014 ACC Football Kickoff at Grandover Resort.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner and Walter Camp National Player of the Year Jameis Winston, who led the Seminoles to an unbeaten season and their third national title as a redshirt freshman in 2013, was chosen to repeat as ACC Player of the Year.

Florida State was picked as the likely overall ACC winner on 104 of 112 ballots cast. The Seminoles were picked to finish atop the Atlantic Division by 109 voters and amassed 780 total points. Clemson received the remaining three-first-place votes and placed second with 660. ACC newcomer Louisville placed third at 564, followed by Syracuse (368), NC State (326), Boston College (301) and Wake Forest (136).

Miami’s 26 first-place votes placed third among Coastal Division teams, but the Hurricanes’ 614 total points led overall. Defending division champion Duke received 33 first-place votes and finished with 597 points, followed by Virginia Tech with 571 points and 23 first-place votes. North Carolina was just behind in fourth place with 570 points and 27 first-place votes, followed by Georgia Tech (322 with one first place vote), Pitt (319 with two first-place votes) and Virginia (142).

Winston is one of 15 returning starters for Florida State, which seeks its third straight ACC title. The Seminoles own 14 ACC football championships in 23 seasons as a conference member, tying Clemson for most league titles all-time.

This marks the third time in four years that the Seminoles have led the ACC media preseason voting. Florida State was also voted first in 2011 and 2012, and in each of its first 14 seasons after joining the ACC (1992 through 2005).

Winston led the preseason ACC Player of the Year balloting with 99 votes, followed by Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley with six. Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, Miami running back Duke Johnson and Virginia Tech quarterback Brenden Motley received one vote apiece.

Last season saw Winston, of Bessemer, Alabama, become the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy (19 years, 342 days) and just the second freshman to receive the honor. A dazzling playmaker, he led the Seminoles to a 14-0 record and engineered the game-winning drive in a 34-31 win over Auburn in the 2013 VIZIO BCS National Championship Game.

Named the offensive MVP of the national title game, Winston also received the Davey O’Brien Award and the Manning Award as the nation’s best quarterback after setting national freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdown passed (40) in 2013. His pass efficiency rating of 184.8 set an ACC record and led the nation.

ACC Championship Votes

1. Florida State – 104

2. Clemson – 2

3. Virginia Tech – 2

(4 voters made no selection)

Atlantic Division

(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Florida State (109) – 780

2. Clemson (3) – 660

3. Louisville – 564

4. Syracuse – 368

5. NC State – 326

6. Boston College – 301

7. Wake Forest – 136

Coastal Division

(First place votes in parenthesis)

1. Miami (26) – 614

2. Duke (33) – 597

3. Virginia Tech (23) – 571

4. North Carolina (27) – 570

5. Georgia Tech (1) – 322

6. Pitt (2) -319

7. Virginia -142

ACC Player of the Year

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State – 99

2. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson – 6

3. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami – 1

4. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke – 1

5. Brenden Motley, QB, Virginia Tech -1

(4 voters made no selection)

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ACC official says replay, rule changes working well

Doug Rhoads.

Doug Rhoads.

Speaking at the ACC Football Kickoff media event in Greensboro, ACC Coordinator of Officials Doug Rhoads gave statistical backup that goes against conventional wisdom of the average fan.

For one, he says, replays don’t take very long, and two, officials are ultimately getting it right.

Only a little more than one in five replays resulted in an overturned call last season. The game was stopped 210 times in ACC games with the average wait time just a minute and four seconds. “That’s less than any commercial break,” he said.

Rule changes are always a big topic but in even years only changes are made that are considered safety measures. This year there will be an emphasis on hitting with force on or below the knee. There will be a 15-yard penalty but there won’t be any ejections as there were last year for launching head first into a player or hitting above the shoulders.

Last season, nationally, 92 players were initially ejected but 32 of those were reversed on replay. So, 60 players in more than 800 games isn’t excessive. Rhoads credits that to the players being taught differently by coaches and players adjusting.

Four years ago the league put an emphasis on excessive celebrations and as a result, Rhoads says that has almost totally been “coached out of the game.” There were only six players called with excessive celebration nationally last season.

But hitting above the shoulders is a lot harder to coach out of the game. As reported above, it turned out that a lot of those calls weren’t offenses after all – the players did not hit above the shoulders. In a game that moves as fast as football with bang-bang plays, I’m not sure how you coach that call out of football.

Certainly coaches can advise against launching into players, especially head first, and hitting players with a forceful upward thrust. But those hits are inches one way or another. One’s an exciting pop and the other is a 15 yard penalty and an ejection.

Last season, if one of those plays was overruled on replay, the player was re-admitted to the game but the 15-yard penalty stood. After an outcry from coaches, this season if the play is overruled, not only is the player re-admitted but the 15-yard penalty goes away. Makes sense.

One thing you’ll see different this year is another official in the offensive backfield. The ACC will add an 8th official called the center judge. Among other duties, he will spot the ball and be another set of eyes for the referee looking at the offensive line. This gives the ref more time to make sure the QB remains safe, for instance, rather than focusing on a holding on the other side of the line.

Not sure how much this will help and how much it will just make the field more crowded. There are already concerns about the officials getting in the way.

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ACC commissioner Swofford gives state of the conference address

John Swofford.

John Swofford.

Commissioner John Swofford looked ahead with excitement and anticipation on Sunday as he met with a record media contingent at the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 43rd annual Football Kickoff.

“The combination of the league’s 15 member institutions is remarkable, and this conference has never been stronger and better positioned,” Swofford said.

A three-year period of growth culminated with Louisville’s official entry into the conference on July 1. The ACC Football Kickoff represents a friendly initiation of sorts, and Swofford expects the Cardinals to make a strong first and lasting impression as they begin full-scale league athletic competition.

“As I’ve said previously, Louisville brings to the ACC an institution and athletic program on a tremendous upward trajectory,” Swofford said. “It brings a dynamic city and a rabid, large and passionate fan base. Frankly speaking, I know of no other athletic program that has progressed as much as Louisville has in the last 15 years.”

Louisville will join an ACC that saw five teams win NCAA Championships during the 2013-14 academic year and placed at least one team among the top five in 14 of its sponsored sports. Nine ACC student-athletes claimed individual NCAA titles.

But Swofford made equal note of the conference’s collective academic accomplishments.

ACC football programs led all conferences for the eighth-straight year in the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rates (APR) and for the eighth time in nine years in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rates (GSR). Overall, ACC member schools continue to lead the way among the Power 5 conferences in the latest US News and World Report Rankings of ‘Best Colleges,’ with over half of its membership among the Top 50 and five among the Top 30.

“Academically, I continue to be inspired by the student-athletes that attend our conference’s unique mix of public and private institutions,” Swofford said.

While applauding the successes of the past year and looking ahead to a promising ACC future, Swofford acknowledged that “there’s no overlooking the national discussions during this period of restructuring within college athletics.”

“I applaud the great efforts by Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, who also serves as the chair of the NCAA Board of Directors in leading the membership throughout this process,” Swofford said. “The change that continues to be called for is key to ensuring that the model reflects the needs of the 21st century student-athlete, while also recognizing how special the collegiate model is to the educational system within our country.”

Swofford said the ACC, along with the Big Ten, Big XII, PAC-12 and SEC, will continue to prioritize the discussions surrounding the enhancement of the athletic scholarship, ensuring that student-athletes have every opportunity to earn a degree (even if they return to school following the completion of a professional career) and ensure that they have their health and safety needs met by the institutions they represent.

The issues of health and safety were addressed earlier Sunday, when the ACC announced an endorsement of the USA Football “Heads Up Program.” The partnership will entail league coaches participating in a public relations campaign to increase awareness at the youth football level.

The endorsement follows a meeting of ACC medical personnel last March to update and refine player safety policies. Consensus from those discussions was shared and discussed with the league’s football coaches at the ACC Spring Meetings.

“I think the work done by our membership this past year was terrific,” Swofford said. “There’s always an emphasis on prioritizing player safety, and this year allowed the ACC the opportunity to take a leadership role within the NCAA by taking an active role and officially endorsing the new guidelines just recently announced.”

Swofford said the ACC also put forward three requests to the NCAA rules committee asking for the ability to expand the use of technology in practices and games for player-safety data collection purposes. The NCAA approved a player monitoring system for ACC games this fall. The ACC’s two other requests – experimentation with a helmet camera during completion and the use of a coach-quarterback communication – will be discussed by the NCAA Football Rules Committee next February.

Many media on Sunday were focused on the upcoming football season. Swofford was more than happy to take part in that discussion, particularly with the ACC coming off a 2013 season that featured Florida State’s national championship, an NCAA-record 11 ACC teams in bowl games and 11 league teams with winning record.

Led by Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston and Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the ACC became the first conference to see its players win the Heisman, Nagurski, Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik, Doak Walker, Lou Groza, Rimington and Davey O’Brien Awards in the same season.

The ACC’s 14 football programs seek similar success in 2014, but Swofford noted that it will be hard-earned.

“No ACC team will face fewer than six opponents that participated in bowl games last year, while 11 of the 14 ACC teams will play at least eight bowl teams from 2013, with both Miami and Virginia each facing 10 teams that were in postseason play a year ago,” he pointed out. “Our teams will also play 24 nonconference games against teams that participated in bowl games in 2013, which ties for most of any Power 5 Conference.”

As has been the case in recent years, there will be no shortage of fan access to those matchups.

“We are extremely pleased that every ACC controlled football game will be available to our fans nationwide,” Swofford said. “Our relationship with ESPN allows us to maximize our reach and bring ACC football and content to fans whenever they are across a multitude of devices. Whether traditional television or national digital and mobile platforms like ESPN3 and Watch ESPN, ACC content is truly available everywhere.

“In addition to ESPN, the ACC Network through Raycom continues to be broader than ever before, with a reach of over 90 million households and no geographic parameters on the distribution. The ACC Network is available in each of the top ten television markets within the US, and in 21 of the Top 25.”

Following this year’s regular season, the ACC Football Championship Game will return to Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium for the fifth consecutive year, and is set to remain at that venue through 2019. The ACC will be represented as one of the Power 5 conferences in the new College Football Playoff while continuing its long-time partnership with the Orange Bowl as part of the new postseason format.

The ACC’s other postseason partnerships include agreements with the Orlando’s New Year’s Day Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl, Hyundai Sun Bowl, New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Belk Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl, Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Duck Commander Independence Bowl, the Detroit Lions Bowl, the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl and the Birmingham Bowl.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the future line up of bowl games including many long-time partners and some new ones too,” Swofford said. “Overall, these outstanding partners provide more postseason opportunities, selection flexibility, improved financials, marquee matchups and attractive destinations for the ACC’s teams, fans and alums.”

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Hurricanes select Fleury, a defenseman, in NHL first round

Haydn Fleury.

Haydn Fleury.

Though the 2014 NHL Draft wasn’t as stacked as others with top-end defensive talent, there were two blue-liners that caught scouts’ attention, and one was taken first overall.

The other was Haydn Fleury, selected seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I really don’t have many words to say,” Fleury said in his first media scrum as a member of the Canes. “It’s an unreal experience, and I’m very excited to be in Carolina.”

As the team’s first selection of a defenseman in the first round since Ryan Murphy was picked 12th overall in 2011, the Canes are happy to have Fleury.

“He’s a big, mobile defenseman who has a lot of upside to his game because of the way he skates,” said Canes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “He can skate the puck out of traffic and move it out of trouble. In the U-18 tournament in Finland, he was quarterbacking the power play. There are a lot of parts of his game that we like.”

“We did have our eye on him,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes head amateur scout. “He’s a guy with that kind of size, and he skates extremely well. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck, and he moves the puck.”

The 2013-14 season was Fleury’s second full season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. As an alternate captain, he led his team in defensive scoring with 46 points (8g, 38a) in 70 games. That output was more than double the 19 points (4g, 15a) he recorded in 66 games as a WHL rookie, still be for third among team defensemen.

Additionally, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound defenseman finished at a team-high plus-15 on a Red Deer squad that had a minus-10 goal differential and failed to qualify for the postseason.

“Brent [Sutter] has treated me like a pro,” Fleury said. “He’s had high expectations for me and has given me a great opportunity in Red Deer.”

“The thing that we like about this guy is that his upside is significant,” MacDonald said. “His offensive game is still evolving. He’s still developing. He’s still getting better in that regard, and we expect that he’ll continue to get better. He’s a very coachable kid and eager to learn.”

Typically, the development process for a defenseman can be more extended than others. But Fleury, 17, will attend Prospects Development Camp in a month before going to Traverse City for the annual rookie prospects tournament and then training camp. A decision on his status for the 2014-15 season – whether he remains with the big club or returns to Red Deer – will be made then.

“You always want to be careful with young defensemen. They do take a little longer [to develop]. A lot of times you don’t know what you have until they are about 22 or 23, quite frankly,” Francis said. “Ultimately, you want to do what’s best for Haydn and our franchise in the long-term, not the short term.”

“It’s a steeper learning curve for the defensemen. At the NHL level, it’s tough for these guys to come in and make an impact right away. It takes them a little longer,” MacDonald said. “It’s a challenging position to play, and there are a lot of things to learn. But when a player has the signs and the tools … you can do a lot with that kind of player.”

Fleury is that kind of player with a varied and skilled toolbox. He compares his game to that of Jay Bouwmeester.

“He’s a solid, two-way defenseman who plays in all situations of the game,” Fleury said. “He plays big minutes, generates offense and is very strong defensively, as well.”

And Fleury’s self-described game?

“I consider myself a two-way defenseman who can play in all situations of the game,” he said. “I can play on the power play, I can play on the penalty kill and play against other teams’ top lines.”

After over a year’s worth of scouting work and long days and weeks of compiling lists, the Canes had Fleury, who projects as a rock-solid two-way NHL defenseman, pegged as their guy.

“We talked about trying to get a little bit bigger. He’s 6-foot-3 and 200-plus pounds, but he skates extremely well. It’s not like he’s a big, slow guy,” Francis said. “This guy is very mobile, and in today’s game, you need D that can skate it and move it out of trouble, and this kid can do that.

“At the end of the day, you’re just trying to get a comfort level that you think he’s a good kid, which he did. And we felt that he was a good player,” Francis said of the process. “We’re glad to have him.”

- Hurricanes news release, Michael Smith