June 19, 2019

Clemson needs seismic shift in college football landscape to thrive

It might be the longest funeral in history, but the ACC is all but done and won’t exist in 10 years. At least not in the current configuration, with the current teams and continue to be relevant in college football.

As Brad Senkiw of orangeandwhite.com wrote last week John Swofford had no update on an ACC Network and believes it’s a joking matter almost a year after having no update on an issue that’s likely to determine the ultimate fate of the conference he leads.

Swofford’s making jokes as the league dies a slow, painful death.

What’s not a joking matter is that of the 5 power conferences the ACC is 5th in payout to its members, coming in at almost $12 million per year less than SEC teams.

This gap puts the ACC closer to being the Big East than the SEC. $12 million a year adds up rather quick and at this rate between 2016 and 2025 the Vanderbilts, Kentuckys and South Carolinas will have garnered $120 million more (assuming the gap stays the same, though it’s likely to grow) than Clemson and Florida State. One.Hundred.Twenty.Million.Dollars.

Let that sink in. Over the next 10 years Vanderbilt will receive $120 million more than Clemson.

In the short term, Clemson and Florida State can compete as we’ve seen over the last 3 seasons, but eventually a $12 million a year deficit is going to be too much to overcome. This isn’t Leicester City vs. the Premier League, this is Google vs. DuckDuckGo. Sure, you can hang on and survive in some form or fashion, but you’re not going to be talked about and you’re not going to be relevant. To use a soccer term, you’re going to be relegated. As in not in the picture for the big championship trophy.

While Stuart Mandel’s vision of college football in 2026 is a pipe dream, it may be the best option for Clemson and Florida State. The Tigers and Seminoles need a seismic change in the college football landscape to escape the death sentence of the ACC. Sorry John, adding another Big East-ish basketball focused college for the “TV market” ala Syracuse or Pittsburgh would be akin to putting a band aid on a severed arm.

It’s not all Swofford’s fault of course, it’s hard to sell Boston College football to the masses and just try and get a network to buy into the epic Wake Forest-Syracuse gridiron battles that are sure to happen in the next few seasons. You get my drift.

The ACC has 2 or, in good years, maybe 3 or 4 good college football teams. That leaves a lot of dogs and a lot of crappy games on the schedule. Honestly, who would you rather watch on a Clemson off week Auburn and Texas A&M or Syracuse and Pittsburgh? Thought so. The rest of the country agrees with you.

The timing is not optimal and as Brad pointed out ESPN has cut staff and they also broadcast basketball games with announcers in a studio instead of on site to save pennies in order to pay the SEC teams 10s of millions.

One thing I do know though, is ACC teams can’t continue to be paid $12 million year a less than their competition and survive long term.

Maybe not tomorrow or next week or next month or even next year, but make no mistake about it the ACCs days as a relevant football conference are numbered.

I was against the Big 12 move that was rumored a few years back (baseball road trips to Lubbock, Texas and Manhattan, Kansas?), thought the semi-deal with Notre Dame was a good thing (try to get 80,000 fans to show up in a hurricane for any other team, I dare you) and believe Louisville was a nice addition (good football, championship basketball, top 10 baseball). I’m not someone who thinks every Swofford move is a disaster.

On the other hand, Swofford and crew brought us Pittsburgh and Syracuse football while the SEC was grabbing Texas A&M and Missouri.

There was a time when Swofford and the ACC had an opportunity but couldn’t get it done for whatever reason and in today’s world not getting an ACC network (or equivalent TV deal) is a conference killer.

Mandel’s vision or some version of it may come true or perhaps the ACC turns into the Big East Part II and acknowledges it’s a basketball conference that happens to have a couple of good football teams.

It’ll be a long good bye because guys like Swofford hang on, tell you everything’s OK, ask for patience and understanding and tell you a network will happen when the “time is right” or the “fit” is right.

For some reason the “Remain calm, all is well” scene from Animal House with Swofford as Chip Diller runs through my head when I think of Swofford’s “leadership” on this issue.

Hey, John? The time was right about 5 years ago.

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