Normalcy returns after long absence for ACC

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- There was something different about the ACC spring meetings the past four days.

For the first time in at least four years, there was no talk about which schools were coming or going, no questions about whether the voices in the room this year would be the same next year.

"Normal is a word that I haven't used in this meeting much in recent years," ACC commissioner John Swofford said Thursday

"But I would say this was a very normal meeting in the context of our business to be done and in the context of our schools here represented."

The one move the league still has to make is the official swap of Maryland leaving and Louisville joining July 1, but the Cardinals had representatives present this week and the Terrapins did not, giving a sense that the change has already occurred.

With those distractions out of the way, the league's athletic directors and coaches were able to move forward with a productive week of meetings.

"One of the things I was most pleased about this meeting was the sense of camaraderie and collegiality that was in the room, and trust," Swofford said.

"That comes with familiarity and people getting comfortable with what is now a 15-member league and people around the table. That's important.

'That's an intangible that is extremely important for us."

These meetings also came at a time where the ACC is enjoying its moment in the spotlight from a football perspective.

For the past few years, the league's coaches and administrators touted their recruiting rankings and NFL draft results, but also had to deal with the reality that the SEC won seven consecutive BCS titles while the ACC had just one BCS bowl win in that stretch.

That started to change last year when Florida State's Orange Bowl win gave the league its first BCS bowl victory since 2009, and it culminated this January with the Seminoles' national title, as well as Clemson's Orange Bowl win against Ohio State.

"I think [the perception has] changed a lot," Swofford said.

"Hopefully, we can keep that going. I think we have a lot of momentum from a league standpoint and, specifically, from a football standpoint."

As for the league's future, the biggest decision this week was that it would stick at eight conference games (plus one league-mandated non-conference game against a major conference opponent), at least for now.

The one thing that could change that down the road, according to Swofford, is if the NCAA votes to alter its current legislation that requires conferences to have 12 teams and two divisions to hold a championship game. If that vote passes in August, there's a chance the ACC could eliminate divisions entirely and have the top two teams play in the title game.

Swofford said he thinks the measure will pass, but that doesn't necessarily mean the ACC will shake things up.

"I don't think people should necessarily interpret our pushing this forward to mean we would definitely change what we're doing," he said. "But it would give us the flexibility to [do so]. If that occurs, we'll have a very thorough discussion about it."

The ACC also implemented several other changes this week, including moving the basketball championship game to Saturday night, experimenting with a 30-second shot clock in men's basketball exhibition games and adding an eighth on-field official for conference football games.

Swofford also said, at the behest of league coaches and athletic directors, he will recommend an early football signing period to the College Commissioners Association, something many league coaches have pushed for in recent years.

Swofford remained mum, though, on the topic that dominated the meetings last year: a potential ACC television network.

He said it would probably be "several" years before it would be ready to launch.

The SEC network will go on the air this fall, and Swofford said its something he'll keep an eye on.

"I think the SEC Network will be successful," he said.

"If that's something that we want to do, that would be a good thing for the ACC. But we'll learn things from how that flows. I'm sure ESPN will learn things from how that flows. I think that's a positive, actually, for us going forward."

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NOTE -- The ACC announced Thursday that Pitt will host the league's 2015 wrestling championships March 8, 2015, at Petersen Events Center. Pitt won the ACC regular-season championship this past season, its first year in the conference, and finished second at the ACC championships.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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