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Swofford: ACC survival ‘never an issue’

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Swofford: ACC survival ‘never an issue’

ACC commissioner John Swofford

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Despite speculation about the viability of the Atlantic Coast Conference, league commissioner John Swofford was flanked by 12 football helmets representing each of the ACC members during his state-of-the- conference address Sunday.

It was visual evidence of the league remaining whole to accompany Swofford’s assessment that the conference is healthy and well-positioned.

Swofford is confident all ACC programs remain committed to the conference despite the ACC’s lackluster perception, which is tied to poor performances in high-profile bowl games and non-conference play, and a television deal ranking near the bottom of the power-conference pack.

“(Survival) was never an issue in my mind,” Swofford said of the ACC. “(The ACC) has a group of schools that are together for the right reasons. … There’s just plus after plus after plus in this conference going forward.”

Swofford said the pluses include a new TV contract that will show a record number of ACC sporting events — including every football game — over a number of television and digital platforms, a strong academic identity, and a new 12-year deal with the Orange Bowl that he feels gives the conference a significant seat at the postseason table.

Swofford said many of the rumors of defections — most notably reports tying Clemson and Florida State to the Big 12 — were overblown and the subject of irresponsible reporting.

If Swofford had any concerns about where Clemson stood, those were eased during a trip to Clemson on Thursday and Friday when he met with Clemson president James Barker and the trustees.

Swofford said he left Clemson feeling the university was “totally” committed to the ACC and trusts the word of Barker and the trustees.

“It was very positive,” Swofford said of his Clemson trip. “It was just more about questions, education, better understanding how we do things, what we saw in the future ... making sure we as a league can be as good as we can be.”

While Swofford senses ACC members are committed to the conference he senses Notre Dame is committed to football independence. Many analysts suspect Notre Dame is atop the ACC’s wish list if there is another round of expansion.

Swofford declined to discuss whether ACC presidents met with Notre Dame officials earlier this month but the assumption is more has been explored with Notre Dame than just an Orange Bowl partnership.

“(Notre Dame) is very committed to independence. Whether that changes down the road we’ll have to wait and see,” Swofford said.

While conferences around the country wait to see if Notre Dame is committed to independence, the ACC appears to be firmly committed to a nine-game ACC football schedule once Pittsburgh and Syracuse enter the ACC next year.

Clemson is not in favor of the expanded conference schedule as it compelled the school to cancel its series with Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. But Swofford noted a “super majority” of ACC athletic directors are in favor of the schedule.

Swofford also addressed the new four-team playoff that will come into effect in 2014 calling it an improvement to the postseason.

Swofford said an eight-team playoff was not possible at this time because such a proposal was not supported by the majority of university presidents.

Since 2001, if using a four-team playoff, the ACC would have had only one team in a four-team field in Virginia Tech in 2007 if using BCS points. But rather worry about the size of the playoff field Swofford said the ACC simply needs a program to emerge and raise the perception of the conference.

“There’s only one way to remedy that, and that’s to win more (high-profile) games. I have to believe there will be a day when that 3-12 (BCS record) becomes a 12-3.”

As for Miami’s potential NCAA sanctions, Swofford said: “The sooner we can get those several problems totally behind us in this league, the better.”

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