It’s possible there’s never been a better time to be the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia is the reigning College World Series champion. Florida State is a recent football champion and a perennial contender, and Clemson came damn close last year. Notre Dame is aboard, and the league’s footprint has been successfully extended to Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh (Boston College’s 0-for-26 notwithstanding.)
And, by the way, there are six ACC basketball teams gearing up to play in the Sweet 16 later this week.
Life is good on Tobacco Road, so why not strike while the iron’s hot and move forward with the long-awaited ACC Network?
ACC commissioner John Swofford discussed the topic with WRAL in North Carolina and was customarily non-committal on the league’s future.
“I’m confident that our television [partnership] will turn out to be very successful and beneficial to the league. All I can tell you is those conversations are continuing, and until we reach a point where we’re definitive in our path forward, there’s really not going to be a whole lot to say about it. Our confidence in the future has not changed.”
The ACC is already ESPN’s largest content provider so the question plaguing the mythical ACC Network, with ESPN under widely-reported pressure to cut costs, is why the Worldwide Leader would have an interest in paying extra for content it’s already paying for? And if not, wouldn’t it make the most sense to go digital?
“It remains to be seen. Sometimes being first is a good idea, and sometimes it’s not such a good idea. That’s all part of the evaluation of where the industry is going, where the technology is going. All of that comes into play. I think the most important thing, from our perspective, is that we have a very good partner [in ESPN] that’s very progressive and has been at the top of the food chain for a long time and I suspect will be for a long time,” Swofford said.
“I think we’ve put ourselves in a very good position as a league with our footprint and the population base that we now have, and therefore the television sets we now have, to do some things we would not have been able to do otherwise. It gets back to what I said earlier – whatever we do, we want to give ourselves the best chance, and whatever that is, the best chance to be very successful from a timing standpoint and a distribution standpoint.
“The one thing we’ve learned from other conferences that have taken this step, a potential channel, is that there are ways to do it that work extremely well immediately. There are ways to do it where it had to evolve and develop, like the Big Ten, who had huge growing pains its first years. And then the PAC-12, which continues to really struggle with their approach. It’s all out there, so there’s something to be learned from each.”
Reading between those lines, it sounds like Swofford feels exactly zero rush to do anything ESPN doesn’t want him to do.