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Jun
25
2015

Has the ACC become the nation’s best collegiate sports conference? and what that could mean.

Swofford

Fresh off Virginia’s College Baseball title, the ACC now has reigning NCAA Baseball Champion (Virginia), the reigning NCAA Basketball Champion (Duke), the two-time NCAA Women’s Basketball runner-up (Notre Dame), and is 1 year removed from having the College Football National Champion (Florida State).

In the 4 biggest revenue producing sports the last two years ACC has won 3 of 8 National Titles. That is more than all other Power Conference combined. The Big 10 has 1 (Ohio State Football 2014), The SEC has 1 (Vanderbilt Baseball 2014), the Pac 12 has 0, and the Big 12 zilch. Oddly enough Connecticut has 3 National Titles themselves, 1 in Men’s Basketball, and 2 in Women’s Basketball.

It wasn’t that long ago the ACC went from 2010-2014 without a National Title in any major sport. Does that mean the ACC has become the nation’s best sports conference? I’m not sure we can say that yet. This is still a pretty small sample size, and having the best team doesn’t necessarily mean best the conference. ACC football has improved, but no one would suggest they were college football’s top conference in 2013 when FSU won the title. That said the mere suggestion that the ACC “may” be the nation’s top sports conference is noteworthy.

Let’s look beyond just the national titles.

At this year’s NCAA Baseball tournament the ACC had 7 teams make the field, and 2 make the CWS. Both were second only to the SEC. The ACC also had 7 teams in the field last year. If you think it’s just quantity due to the ACC’s 15 members. That’s 14 ACC teams out of a total 30 or 47% in a 2 year period. By comparison the Big 12 had 8 out of their total 20 teams or 40% make the NCAA Tournament.

The ACC this year finished with 5 out top 12 teams in NCAA Men’s Basketball. No other conference had more than 2. Don’t forget either the ACC had a record 5 Sweet 16 teams this season, as the ACC re-established itself as the nation’s top basketball conference. I don’t think calling the ACC the country’s best basketball conference is debatable. The conference also had 3 of the top 10 women’s basketball teams this year. No other power 5 conference had more than 2.

What about football? Football drives the bus, and these sports aren’t created equal. I don’t disagree, it is football, basketball, college baseball or women’s basketball run a pretty distant 3rd or 4th. We’ve said it here many times, the ACC has a much improved football product from 2011.    This is absolute fact. Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Clemson finished in the top 15, this year. That was tied with 3 top 15 teams with the similar sized Big 10, and just 1 fewer than the SEC. The Pac 12 also had 3 top 15 teams. The ACC isn’t college football’s top conference, but to say it is not competitively right in the middle of the power 5 would be incorrect.

This disproves the narrative that started  4-5 years ago that the ACC had fallen into a position where it would be unable to compete athletically. Unfortunately you can’t be sure with so many changes in college athletics, that the success is sustainable without additional revenue generation. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – but certainly having more money won’t hurt. You know where is this is going.

Athletically the ACC has never been hotter than it is now. 4 years ago John Swofford would have went into a network negotiation with ESPN with nothing more than UNC and Duke basketball, an underachieving baseball conference, and a football conference coming off a 2-13 BCS record. The ACC’s recent athletic success gives the conference some leverage that there is sports being played in the conference that is among best in the country. Football is king, but judging from the SEC Network televising several NCAA baseball game featuring SEC teams, success in other sports is without doubt additional content. The quantity of strong sports teams across conference certainly helps this too.

If athletics were a point of contention of a network starting up, that is no longer the case.

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