For the past few years the challenge issued by ACC commissioner John Swofford to the members of the ACC has been to represent the conference on a national level with better results. This summer, with the defending national champions (Florida State), and a second BCS bowl winner (Clemson), what will Swofford’s message be now?
With the buzz from SEC Media Week extravaganza now fading, it is on to the second stop of the summer conference media tour. That brings us to Greensboro, North Carolina, home of the ACC, where for the first time in conference history the ACC will put on display a defending national champion, two programs winning BCS bowl games and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. As if that is not enough, the conference welcomes a brand new program to the mix, Louisville. Yes, these next few days should be very interesting for the ACC.
Times have never been better for the ACC, or at least it has been a while since the conference had such a strong leg to stand on. With Florida State snapping the SEC’s national championship streak last season and Clemson taking down Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, the ACC will have some things to brag about at the ACC Football Kickoff. The addition of Louisville will also be celebrated by all attending the event. But the themes for this year’s ACC media blitz do not stop there.
Can Duke keep playing at a division championship level? Will Miami find a way to survive with a questionable quarterback situation? Can Virginia Tech bounce back and become the strong contender they used to be? Will North Carolina avoid a slow start and build off a second half of the season? What will Pittsburgh and Syracuse do in year two in the conference after representing their new conference home admirably in postseason play?
The ACC will do things a bit differently than the SEC, but then again, most conferences will. Here’s the basic agenda for the ACC Football Kickoff at the beautiful Grandover Resort. Players, coaches and media will begin arriving Saturday but the fun kicks off on Sunday, when the conference will send the player representatives through the media grinder, breaking up interview sessions into separate segments for print media and electronic media. This results in much smaller interview rooms compared to the extravagant SEC media opportunities. In my experience at the event, this is a good way to go about it because the room is smaller and it is a bit more comfortable for the players (and media). When not in the formal interview sessions, players will then spend time working through radio row or sitting at a table with other media members surrounding them for less formal interviews. There will be many players of note attending the event as well, including 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Miami running back Duke Johnson, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker and Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd, just for starters.
On Monday the coaches get their chance to walk through the same motions. It has been my experience that this is the better day of the two, because the players rarely have much to share or offer compared to the stuff that will fly out of the mouths of coaches on the final day of the event. The ACC may not have quite the same character make-up as the SEC when it comes to coaches, but Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney, Larry Fedora, Bobby Petrino and Steve Addazio are not a bad line-up.
One of the better features of the ACC Football Kickoff is the way coverage has been streamlined through the use of social media. The ACC does a great job moderating the interview sessions, and they work to mix in fan questions from Twitter or Facebook. This is usually the best way to fill the rare moments when the media falls silent, but it also helps keep the fans involved with the event. The entire media day experience is streamed online and the radio row usually features a screen with live tweets from the ACC, its members and anyone using the official hashtag (#ACCKickoff).
The bar has been raised for the ACC, and the conference is ready to prove once again it belongs among the top powers in college football. Entering the College Football Playoff Era, it appears the ACC will be in good shape to have a strong contender for the four-team field for sometime, but continuing to succeed in the regular season is still vital. The ACC will feature a number of high-profile games against other power conferences early in the season. Florida State opens in Jerry World against Oklahoma State. Virginia Tech travels to Ohio State. Miami visits Nebraska. Boston College gets USC. Winning games like this will help to continue raising the ACC’s profile, and will help the conference get away form being considered so top-heavy with Florida State and Clemson.