Swofford: Change all but certain in ACC

Jul. 20, 2014 @ 07:39 PM

With the so-called power five conferences in college athletics poised to gain more autonomy in rule creating, ACC Commissioner John Swofford expects major changes to occur.

During his address to start the ACC Kickoff preseason football media event at the Grandover Resort on Sunday, Swofford predicted that the college athletics model in place for decades is about to be altered.

“The good ship status quo has sailed,” Swofford said, “and it’s time for some changes and some significant changes and it’s going to present some challenges. But it’s time for that, and those are the right kinds of things to do and to address.”

The NCAA will vote Aug. 7 on a proposal presented Friday that will give the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac-12 more voting power on rules.

So, for example, if those leagues want to expand scholarships to include the full cost attendance, rather than just covering room, board and tuition, it will be easier for that to happen. On that example, smaller schools have been hesitant to expand scholarships due to financial pressures. The larger conferences can easily handle that, though, thanks to lucrative television deals.

“I can’t stand here today and tell you that the five of us are all on the same page as to those details and how the scholarships should be altered exactly, because it gets sort of complicated,” Swofford said. “But in concept, I don’t think there’s any question that all five conferences are on the same page.”

Swofford also said the athletes are closer than ever to having a say in rules.

“I think it’s time for our student-athletes to have a voting voice at the national level,” Swofford said. “That is going to be in there. You know, so there’s some — the autonomy aspect of it just opens up a lot of opportunities for the five conferences to do some things that we feel are important, and most of those things are initially related to the student-athletes’ situation.”

NCAA’s return to UNC

A former UNC football player and athletics director, Swofford has a unique perspective on the school’s issues with the NCAA.

He said Sunday the situation — regarding the NCAA is returning for a second look at any possible infractions stemming from academic improprieties — concerns him the same as it would if it were occurring at any ACC school.

“I’m sure UNC is doing everything that it can do to put it behind them, get to the bottom of it,” Swofford said. “They’ve already made a number of changes that I understand. Whether the reopening will lead to anything any different, I have no idea at this point in time. But anytime — I think any commissioner would tell you that anytime an institution is having an NCAA issue, you’d like to get it clarified and put to rest and move forward as soon as you can. That’s true anytime we have any of those kinds of situations.”

UNC quarterback Marquise Williams said the current athletes are keeping their focus on the here and now, rather than what happened years ago.

“We don’t worry much about the NCAA,” Williams said. “We just try to play football. If they find something, they find something. We’re going to play football regardless. Our main focus is on winning games this year. We haven’t really been focused on what’s going to happen next with us.”

More title games in Charlotte

Earlier this year, the ACC agreed to a new contract to continue holding its football championship game at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

Having held the previous four championship games there, Charlotte is contractually tied to the next six ACC title games.

Swofford points to attendance as a big reason. Over the last four years, the game has averaged around 70,000 spectators, second to the mighty SEC in championship game attendance.

Staff writer Harold Gutmann contributed to this story.