Swofford takes a victory lap after perhaps ACC’s best season ever

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte. And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports. In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major […]

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte.

And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports.

In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major conferences.

“It was certainly one of the league’s most successful years and quite possibly its most successful year,” Swofford said.

Specific to football, Swofford said ACC teams arguably played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Around 2010, Swofford said the league made a move “to step up to the plate” and play tougher schedules.

But he said you can’t live in the past in college athletics.

This coming season, ACC teams will play a combined 115 games against teams that went to bowl games in 2016.

“The conference is deeper than it’s ever been,” Swofford said. “There are more good teams and it’s tougher to win an ACC football title than it’s ever been.”

Swofford pointed out that Clemson’s two toughest games en route to the NCAA title game last season came at home against ACC foes N.C. State and Pitt. He said that certainly “tells you something about what the ACC is today.”

With plans in the works with ESPN for the ACC Network, set to start in two years, and with all the changes in league membership over recent years, Swofford said it’s time to “take a deep breath” rather than take on additional big goals.

“You need to make sure you’re not veering away from what your mission is and what your value system is,” he said. “You have to make sure you continue to be who you are and who you want to be.”

He did say the league needs to continue to develop a culture of trust with various partners, including the other major NCAA conferences.

He said he’d like to see new rivalries develop but that those things happen over time. That might be particularly important because the growth of the league has made it so that old rivals N.C. State and Duke, for instance, are only scheduled to play once every six seasons.

Swofford said there is no easy solution to that problem as the schools have to look at what’s best for the league as a whole and the majority of the schools have voted on the current alignment and scheduling.

While he said the league will continue to look at the issue, he doesn’t anticipate any changes in the near future.

He said the league has plenty of time to bond with each other and TV partners, and continue to work together to make things better as agreements keep them all together through the 2035-36 season.

If Notre Dame, an ACC member in every sport except football, ever decides to join a league in football, by contract, it has to be the ACC, at least through that 2035-36 season.

Upon questioning, Swofford only touched briefly on sensitive topics like the Louisville sex scandal, the UNC academic saga and the controversy surrounding HB2.

He said when there are controversies at a school, the other schools sit down and talk to the school about what happened and what they are doing to correct it. “Usually it’s a few people who make bad decisions, not a whole institution,” he said.

Swofford defended the ACC’s decision to return to North Carolina for the ACC championship game and events such as this week’s ACC Kickoff by saying that the repeal of HB2 “took us back to where the state was before HB2… It’s as simple as that.”