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ACC confirms conference’s football title game returning to Charlotte

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After a one-year sabbatical, the ACC’s football championship game is returning to the state of North Carolina.

Late last month, shortly after the state announced that it had replaced the controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), the ACC Council of Presidents voted that the state would again be considered as venues for future league championships.  Wednesday, the conference confirmed that this year’s football title game will again be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Furthermore, to in some ways compensate the city for its one-year loss of the game, the ACC announced that the agreement to play the game in Charlotte has been extended through the 2020 season. The original agreement was expected to expire in 2019.

The league also noted in its release that “[c]hampionship events in women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis will also return to the state during the 2017-18 academic year, and the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship will follow suit in November 2018.”

“We are pleased that ACC neutral site championships will return to the state of North Carolina beginning with the 2017-18 academic year,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “We value all of our partners in North Carolina and appreciate their support and cooperation. We are thrilled to renew our relationships with so many terrific people, outstanding cities and first-class venues.”

The ACC announced in late September of last year that the football championship game for the 2016 season would be played in Orlando.

The move to Orlando came almost two weeks to the day that the ACC announced it was yanking the title game away from the city of Charlotte and out of the state of North Carolina. The move was in response to HB2, a law which some claimed fostered discrimination against members of the LGBT communities.

Charlotte had played host to the ACC football championship game every year since 2010. Prior to 2010, the first three league title tilts were played in Jacksonville (2005-07) and the next two in Tampa (2008-09).

College football spring games: Dates, TV times

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As the calendar flips from March to April, the rush of college football spring games commences in earnest.

On the Power Five side alone, there are nearly 60 spring games scheduled to be played in the month of April.  Last year around this time, Urban Meyer was urging Ohio State fans to show up en masse; the Buckeye faithful responded with a record-breaking turnout.  That six-figure record should be safe — maybe.

Channeling his inner Urban, James Franklin earlier this month very passionately challenged fans to attend Penn State’s spring game to showcase to recruits and the rest of the country that “football is a very, very important part of Penn State.” Texas seemingly has momentum, what with Tom Herman replacing Charlie Strong as head coach, and that hire could cause a spike in interest and spring butts in the seats.  Clemson, coming off its first national championship in three decades and with some question marks given key departures, will certainly see a surge in attendance, although the official seating capacity of 81,500 at Memorial Stadium would preclude them from doing anything other than (barely) cracking the Top 10 in all-time spring game attendance.

Alabama historically fares well in spring attendance — four of the Top 10 — although the last huge crowd was six years ago.  Coming off the first title-game loss under Nick Saban, don’t expect a big jump this year either.

With those storylines in mind, below is the complete slate of spring games for the next four-plus weeks.

FRIDAY, MARCH 31
Arizona, 9 p.m. ET

SATURDAY, APRIL 1
Northwestern, 11 a.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
South Carolina, noon ET (SEC Network)
North Carolina State, 1 p.m. ET
Michigan State, 3 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Texas Tech, 4 p.m. ET

FRIDAY, APRIL 7
Florida, 7 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 8
Ole Miss, noon ET (SEC Network)
Purdue, 1 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Auburn, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Iowa State, 2 p.m. ET
Oklahoma, 2 p.m. ET
Texas A&M, 2 pm. ET (ESPNU)
Clemson, 2:30 p.m. ET
Florida State, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
North Carolina, 3 p.m. ET
Wake Forest, 3 p.m. ET
Mississippi State, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
TCU (time still to be determined)

THURSDAY, APRIL 13
Indiana, 7 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)

FRIDAY, APRIL 14
Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 15
Ohio State, 12:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Louisville, 1 p.m. ET
Minnesota, 1 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. ET
Utah, 1 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
West Virginia, 1 p.m. ET
Kansas, 2 p.m. ET
Missouri, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Nebraska, 2 p.m. ET
Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. ET
Texas, 2 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network)
USC, 3 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Stanford, 4 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Arizona State, 5 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)

FRIDAY, APRIL 21
Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. ET
Wisconsin, 7:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Iowa (time still to be determined)

SATURDAY, APRIL 22
Syracuse, 10 a.m. ET
Boston College, noon ET
Maryland, 12:30 ET (Big Ten Network)
Notre Dame, 12:30 p.m. ET
Baylor, 1 p.m. ET
Cal, 2 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Georgia, 2 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Kansas State, 2 p.m. ET
Virginia Tech, 2:30 p.m. ET
Alabama, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Penn State, 3 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Washington, 3 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Tennessee, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Rutgers, 5 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Washington State, 5 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
LSU, 8 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

SATURDAY, APRIL 29
Arkansas, 1 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Oregon, 2 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Virginia, 3 p.m. ET
UCLA, 4 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)

*Neither Miami nor Michigan will conduct traditional spring games.
*Arizona, Duke, Illinois, Oregon State and Vanderbilt played their spring games in March.

ACC votes to consider North Carolina as host for future championship events

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North Carolina is back in business with the ACC.

The conference announced on Friday afternoon that the ACC Council of Presidents has voted that the state of North Carolina will again be considered for hosting future ACC Championships. The move comes just a day after the state legislature replaced H.B. 2, a controversial law aimed at protections for LGBT people.

Back in late September, the ACC pulled events from the state as a result of the uproar surrounding the bill. That resulted in the football championship game being moved from Charlotte down to Orlando, Fla. in a game where Clemson beat Virginia Tech on the Tigers’ way to a national title.

The NCAA also followed suit in removing events from the state but has taken a more cautious approach over the repeal of H.B. 2. President Mark Emmert said on Thursday at his annual press conference prior to the Final Four that the association would consider the recent changes to the law but did not commit to any formal actions.

It appears that is not the case for the ACC, which moved quickly to return to the state that is most closely associated with the conference. While it was not confirmed in the league’s statement, chances are high that the 2017 ACC Football Championship Game will likely be back in Charlotte following the conclusion of the upcoming regular season.

John Swofford releases statement on North Carolina repeal of HB2

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It’s pretty much impossible to keep politics out of the sports page today. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was forced to release a statement on Tuesday urging Arkansas state legislators to exempt Razorbacks sporting venues from a bill that would greatly expand areas allowing concealed-carry handguns, and now ACC commissioner John Swofford has been forced to wade back into political waters.

North Carolina’s state legislature brokered a deal Thursday with new governor Roy Cooper to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law requiring persons within Tar Heel state borders to use public bathrooms matching their gender at birth. The “bathroom bill” cost the state a reported $3.76 billion in revenue, and some of that lost revenue related directly to college football.

Following the NCAA’s lead of revoking the state’s championship event hosting privileges due to HB2, the ACC moved its football championship game from Charlotte to Orlando (the men’s basketball tournament was previously booked for Brooklyn), a move that cost the conference itself money as well.

Thursday’s repeal of HB2 is more complicated than simply yanking the bathroom bill (this is where I’ll direct you to a much more appropriate place to digest the political news of the hour than a college football blog) and, as such, Swofford’s statement is appropriately nuanced.

The ACC is still undecided where this December’s title game will be played, and Swofford will kick that decision upstairs to the league’s presidents.

Josh Okonye uses tweet to announce grad transfer from Wake Forest to Purdue

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Purdue’s defensive secondary has gotten a veteran shot in the arm in the midst of spring practice.

On his personal Twitter account late this past week, Josh Okonye announced that he has decided to transfer from Wake Forest to the Big Ten football program.  One of the reasons for the defensive back landing in West Lafayette could be Derrick Johnson, the Boilermakers’ new cornerbacks coach who spent the last four season as a defensive assistant with the Demon Deacons.

As Okonye is coming to the Boilermakers as a graduate assistant, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2017.  The upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

A three-star 2013 recruit, Okonye took a redshirt his true freshman season. The past three seasons, Okonye played in a total of 37 games, none of those being starts.

A baker’s dozen of those games played came in 2016 when he served as a safety/nickel back. His 36 tackles last year were tied for seventh on the Demon Deacons, while his three passes defensed were tied for sixth.