When the ACC pulled the ACC Championship Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina in response to the state’s controversial House Bill 2, referred to by many as the bathroom law, it was expected the ACC would make a quick return to the state as soon as the law was successfully repealed. But with the state of North Carolina’s legislature failing to repeal the bathroom law late last month, the law remains in place and that leaves the ACC left to figure out just where it will host its championship game in 2017. For now, no decisions have been made, according to ACC commissioner John Swofford.
Speaking to media today in Tampa as ACC champion Clemson prepares to face SEC champion Alabama in Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship for a second consecutive season, Swofford suggested Orlando would likely be used as the host city for a second time. Orlando was used as the emergency host city on relatively short notice this past fall after the ACC announced it would not play its championship game in Charlotte. Charlotte has served as the host city for the ACC’s title game from 2010 through 2015. Despite holding a contract to host the ACC championship game through 2019, Charlotte had the game taken away by the ACC in September following a conference vote in response to the state’s controversial Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act targetted against members of the LGBT community.
“If something changes in the state of North Carolina, that would be welcomed,” Swofford said, according to Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier. “But our presidents made what they believe is a principled decision in that regard as to where our championships should be held, and shouldn’t. I don’t see that principle changing.”
The 2016 ACC Championship Game was the first ACC title game to be played in Orlando and resulted in the second lowest attendance for an ACC championship game. Orlando’s Camping World Stadium has a seating capacity of 65,000 but netted a crowd of 50,628 for the game between Clemson and Virginia Tech. Each game played in Charlotte had a listed attendance of at least 64,000, with 74,514 in attendance for the 2015 championship game between Clemson and North Carolina.
Atlanta would seem to be out of the equation for the ACC because the SEC plays its championship game in Atlanta (although the doubleheader weekend potential of an ACC and SEC Championship Weekend sounds enticing). Past ACC championship games have also been played in Jacksonville and Tampa, with mixed opinions at best.
Wherever the ACC plays its championship game in 2017, Swofford made it clear he wants the conference to make a decision earlier than it did last year. That should be manageable, as last year’s decision was a relatively last-minute response to the controversial state law and public reaction intensified the longer the ACC took to respond. That should not be a concern this year, unless the ACC is waiting to see if any change to the law may be made earlier in the year. It would make sense to have the ACC have a conference championship destination locked in before the summer media days, but having this all hashed out before or during spring meetings may be more optimal if that can be arranged.