CRAWFORD | ACC's Swofford praises Louisville, plus seven other m - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | ACC's Swofford praises Louisville, plus seven other media day highlights

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ACC photo. ACC photo.

PINEHURST, N.C. (WDRB) — There’s a reason guys rise to the big-time position of conference commissioner. They have the ability to talk more and say less than anyone this side of an elected office.

At least Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford acknowledged this in opening the league’s annual media days at Pinehurst Resort.

After being asked about a potential 24/7 ACC channel for about the third time in a different way, Swofford allowed, “We’ll reach an end point at some point in time and I’ll be just as glad as you are. I know you’re tired of hearing me talk and not say very much on the subject.”

Regardless, here’s what Swofford said on a variety of subjects.

1. TV CHANNEL AND TV MONEY. With the SEC and Big Ten boasting big revenues from their TV networks, Swofford acknowledges that a dedicated round-the-clock ACC channel has been a frequent subject of discussion. The ACC is under contract with ESPN through 2026-27, and Swofford says the league is happy with how its sports are being presented across the board. But he also added, “We’ve positioned ourselves extremely well as a league for future options.”

He cautioned that some of the impressive revenue numbers being shown don’t always include the high expenses being incurred.

“ESPN is as good a partner as you can possibly have,” Swofford said. “They and our partners provide outstanding exposure for our league. Our ratings have been as good as you can get.

“At some point, we will look to make a joint decision about what the best route for the long term future. It is a very important decision going forward, and the good thing is that I don’t think there’s a wrong decision.”

2. ARMS RACE. Recent reports stated that the the SEC would bring in an estimated $435 million in the last fiscal year. The Big Ten Network’s infusion of revenue into that league has been well-documented. The last year for which ACC has reported revenue, 2012-13, was $302.3 million.

“You want to keep up financially as a league,” Swofford said. “You want to do that and we have been able to do that to this point.”

The operative words, of course, are “to this point.” Whether the ACC will keep up without its own TV channel is a legitimate question.

But Swofford countered that the ACC releases its tax returns, while other leagues are releasing projections. As a matter of policy, he said that the ACC has no intention of changing the way it discloses financial information, even if it might help the leagues’ public relations.

“You are comparing apples to oranges,” he said.

As for TV pumping more revenue into a league, Swofford said different projections show different things. Some, for example, show an ACC channel rollout starting slowly but picking up steam over time. Others show different things, to the point where how much money a dedicated ACC channel might net the league is tough to ascertain.

3. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ISSUES. The SEC made headlines by announcing that it would not allow its member programs to sign players who have a criminal history of domestic violence. We asked about such off-the-field concerns, particularly in light of problems at Florida State, Swofford said the ACC would adopt no new policy.

“Those behavioral issues are the purview of the individual institutions,” Swofford said. “. . . We’re not trying to be Big Brother. . . . “Our institutions, they have very appropriate mechanisms on their own campuses to address those situations,” Swofford said. “If I felt that weren’t the case, I’d pick up the phone and have a conversation.”

4. PLAYOFF. Swofford was asked how he felt about the possibility that the ACC might find itself in the position that the Big 12 was in a year ago — with a deserving team left out of the playoff picture.

He said he personally would prefer an eight-team format which would include all of the deserving programs, but added that he doesn’t see that happening for the 11-year remaining length of the current agreement.

“I like what we have,” he said. “It’s what it should be, given the guidelines given us by the university presidents. . . . They don’t want us to play any deeper into January than we already do.”

5. ELITE PLAYERS AND DRAFTS. Swofford raised a few eyebrows when he  started talking in general terms about elite-level athletes, particularly in football and basketball.

“Although I’m really talking about a small percentage of student athletes that fall into the elite category — even in a league that competes for national championships in just about every sport like ours, elite athletes are not that many percentage-wise — I do think we need to provide better flexibility for them to make good decisions on what their future is when they have professional opportunities,” he said. “We need to address the complexity facing those student athletes that may have the chance to play at the next level and I think we need to review the current rules to determine if change is needed and more flexibility given to those athletes. We need to assure that they are receiving sound advice from those with the most accurate and thorough information to provide an opportunity for them to make well-informed decisions. My concern right now is that they are so restricted that they go places that they really shouldn’t be going to gain help in making those kinds of decisions.”

When asked for specific proposals, however, on rules changes that might make life easier for, say, football players facing decisions on the NFL Draft, Swofford wasn’t ready to offer any, nor was he ready to go as far as Alabama coach Nick Saban, who suggested the NCAA lobby the NFL itself to make changes.

“I think it’s vitally important to modernize what we’re doing,” Swofford said. “If we’re going to retain it, we have to adjust. We have to retain the fundamentals and the collegiate model combining education and athletics, and quite frankly, I think we’ve waited too long to make some necessary adjustments.”

6. PLAYER SAFETY. The only new initiative Swofford introduced was the league’s decision to have a medical observer from each program watching every game from the press box. Each school will provide its own medical observer. Swofford said league athletic directors approved the move in a unanimous vote on Sunday. The medical observers won’t have the authority to stop games, but they will be in contact with training personnel on the field.

“This team-specific medical observer will have the benefit of knowing the medical history of the players, because it will be somebody who is involved with them on an ongoing and day-to-day basis,” he said. “This is all experimental. So we’ll see how it actually works in real time, and if there needs to be some adjustment to that, then we’ll see in future years.”

7. FULL COST OF ATTENDANCE. Swofford praised the NCAA’s new cost-of-attendance allowance, but acknowledged some difficulties in implementing it. The largest at present is that the plan is more expensive for some schools than others, meaning some will be giving more extra-scholarship aid than others.

The University of Louisville is one of those schools. Because of the cost of fees, housing-related items and others included in the stipend, the U of L estimated stipend of $5,202 is nearly $1,200 more than any other school in the ACC. Florida State is next at 3,884.

“We’re going to need to live with this for a couple years before we see whether those differences impact decisions recruits are making,” Swofford said. “. . . Sometimes you need to do the right thing even if it has a few warts.”

8. LOUISVILLE’S FIRST YEAR. Swofford had some nice things to say about the addition of U of L to the league.

“Our first-year relationship couldn’t be better,” Swofford said. “They bring a high-quality athletic program to the league. They competed very, very successfully. They competed very successfully nationally for years before joining this league, so the simple way to say it is my impression of Louisville after one year in the league is that they are everything and more than we expected. They are great people to work with. They are tremendous members of this league. Tom Jurich is a great addition to the (athletic directors) table. The job they’ve done athletically there over the last 15 years is pretty remarkable.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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