ACC commissioner looks to prioritize growing football’s audience across conference

Richard Sander was named commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference in June after a long and successful tenure at the helm of the Big Ten conference. He spoke for the first time about his vision for the ACC, and his desire to grow the level of competition and watchability of the league’s football games. He also discussed the challenges of expanding the ACC footprint to multiple time zones, and the importance of regional rivalries.

In the conference’s first year of existence, the ACC has gone through some growing pains. After all, the new conference was formed last year by redrawing the lines from the much-maligned Big East conference. Now, there are new commissioner John Swofford and several new coaches, but the conference hasn’t had too many marquee wins.

Commissioner John Swofford has made some loud and clear statements about the ACC’s desire to grow its football fans. On Thursday he said he plans to spend more time in the Northeast corridor. “We’re going to spend a significant amount of time in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and we’ll have a presence in the Southeast part of the country,” Swofford said.. Read more about acc conference football and let us know what you think.

22nd of July, 2021

  • Adelson, Andrea


    ACC-commissioner-looks-to-prioritize-growing-footballs-audience-across-conferenceSenior Writer for ESPN

    • Reporter for the ACC.
    • In 2010, he joined
    • University of Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
  • Hale, David M.


    1627127355_653_ACC-commissioner-looks-to-prioritize-growing-footballs-audience-across-conferenceESPN Contributor

    • Reporter for the ACC.
    • In 2012, he joined ESPN.
    • The University of Delaware has awarded me a bachelor’s degree.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Commissioner Jim Phillips has made it his mission to elevate football to a higher priority throughout the ACC, a move that includes a greater focus on branding, marketing, and television exposure, as well as future intentions to reconsider the conference’s division structure.

In addition to increased coverage from games and live events, each league club will be featured on ACC Network as part of a fall-practice tour. Another change is that all ACC schools are now obliged to host Pro Days and spring games for broadcast on the ACC Network.

While no changes to the division or schedule structure are expected in the near future, Phillips observed that the whole college scene has changed in recent months due to name, image, and likeness, planned playoff expansion, and one-time transfer restrictions. With the easing of regulations across the board, Phillips believes the ACC will return to the NCAA at some time to request that divisions be removed from the need for leagues with 12 or more teams to host a championship game.

Phillips told ESPN on Thursday, “That’s something we’re going to want to accomplish.” “To see if we can go without divisions this year as we did last year.” We got a glimpse of what it could look like.

“You can’t be wedded to everything you’ve done, in my opinion. Then you get enamored with what has been done in the past or with what you believe is ideal for you. To understand what that new paradigm for ACC football looks like, I believe it will require a lot of flexibility across all of our institutions.”

During the coronavirus epidemic last year, Notre Dame joined the ACC for one season only, and the conference ditched its division structure. Both Clemson and Notre Dame reached the playoffs. This year, Notre Dame will compete as an independent, but Phillips has not shied away from addressing what the Fighting Irish’s future could hold in the ACC as a full-time member.

This is particularly significant now that Texas and Oklahoma have been rumored to be interested in joining the SEC. Phillips remarked during his press conference on Wednesday that until the news broke, “Who knows where the future may lead us? You must constantly be prepared to contribute. If Notre Dame were to join a league, they would have to do so under contract with the ACC. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ll see how this develops.”

Unless a school may play a round-robin conference schedule, the NCAA now requires schools to have divisions in order to participate in a conference championship game. The ACC has attempted and failed in the past to alter the law. However, under a newly enlarged 12-team College Football format, where the league would want to have several schools invited each year, the concerns are equally relevant this time around.

Requesting legislative relief would provide the league the freedom to explore all options going ahead. Phillips discussed reinventing collegiate football in this new age during his meeting with ACC football coaches on Wednesday.

“If it gets to 12, that opens the door for us to say, ‘OK, where do we have the greatest chance to have many teams in this thing?’” One of three coaches on the ACC football subcommittee is Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. “Does it exist with or without divisions? So, if it moves to this new structure, I believe all of these options are available. Is it anything I expect to change in the next year or two? No. However, I believe that this is part of a longer-term discussion.”

Coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson, who is also a member of the ACC football subcommittee, said he loves the division structure but would want the league to reconsider permanent crossover opponents as a means to encourage more schools to play each other. The main issue is that many key ACC rivalry games, such as Miami-Florida State and NC State-North Carolina, have permanent crossovers.

“I believe having divisions and some history inside your league is beneficial,” Swinney said. “However, if you get rid of divisions, you leave everything in the hands of the TV folks when it comes to scheduling.”

That must be taken into account in order to increase ACC football’s exposure. However, Clemson’s hegemony over the whole league has been part of the problem. Swinney doesn’t think so, pointing out that Alabama has been as dominating in the SEC. The SEC, on the other hand, may have a different story since it has gained more exposure and has more teams in contention for national titles.

That is where the ACC must eventually arrive. Phillips created the football subcommitte shortly after taking over as commissioner from John Swofford in January, to look at ways to enhance football throughout the league. Swinney and Clawson were joined by sports directors Heather Lyke (Pitt), Whit Babcock (Virginia Tech), Pat Kraft (Boston College), Bubba Cunningham (North Carolina), Carla Williams (Virginia), and Blake James (Virginia) in the meeting (Miami).

The league approached the organization for fresh ACC football concepts. The most common suggestions were for a more aggressive approach to football marketing and promotion as well as for a football-first society. That is why there have been improvements, such as more coverage on the ACC Network, a bigger social media presence, a primetime announcement for schedule reveals, and buy-in from coaches to make more television appearances to promote their schools and the league.

Three ACC Network sets were strategically placed around the hotel for ACC Kickoff. In addition, the ACC photographed each athlete who came and sent the material to them within 15 minutes for them to use on their own social media channels.

The league has also formed three additional focus groups, one with recruitment coordinators, one with 28 players (two per club), and one with digital social directors, to gather more input on a regular basis. Coaches also requested that the league improve its officiating program.

“There was a fruitful interchange of ideas. That has never occurred before “Narduzzi said. “‘What do you think?’ they don’t ask the coaches. What are we doing here if you’re not listening to the folks in the arena?”

But, when the talks shift toward doing more than simply expanding its visibility, having everyone on the same page, maybe putting the good of the league ahead of the good of the program at times when it comes to further potential adjustments ahead, will need greater cooperation.

“What is better for the general good is being debated,” Phillips added. “Is there any progress in getting there? Yes, I believe there is.”

When the ACC first kicked off its conference football schedule in 2005, the idea was to generate more money and attention for the league’s member schools. That plan appears to being working after only three years.. Read more about acc football and let us know what you think.

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