ACC: Men's basketball tournament still could be played at MSG
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — ACC commissioner John Swofford closed the spring meetings Thursday by keeping the door open for a possible move of the high-profile men's basketball tournament to New York City.
“There are a potential — emphasis on potential — couple of venues in New York that we have an interest in,” he said. “Their availability is another question. We have further work to do on that, further due diligence to do.”
He was referring to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Big East has held its tournament at MSG since 1983 and contractually is bound there until 2026. ESPN.com reported MSG can break that contract if the new Big East fails to reach certain benchmarks. Dealing from a position of strength with new media markets surfacing in Chicago (Notre Dame); Louisville, Ky.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Pittsburgh, Swofford indicated that the basketball presence provided by those schools with Big East ties will be difficult to ignore.
“Basketball-wise, it will knock you out,” he said. “We have obviously a new footprint, a very exciting new footprint, an unbelievable set of basketball programs that may be unrivaled at any time in the history of college basketball in any one conference.” Coaches Jamie Dixon of Pitt and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse have expressed a desire to move the tournament to Madison Square Garden, and Swofford said the ACC's general membership won't dismiss it without serious discussion.
“I think our people are open-minded in the room to a lot of things,” he said.
Yet tradition won't be ignored. The ACC has moved its tournament out of North Carolina only 11 times since 1954, never further north than Landover, Md. The next two tournaments are scheduled for Greensboro, N.C.
“The tournament has tremendous tradition and history in North Carolina,” Swofford said. “That's where it was built over a long period of time. There is great history and great tradition that needs to be meshed with what can be an unbelievable future.” The meetings provided more discussion than resolution on a several issues, including a proposed ACC television network and the future of the football championship that was sold out in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., in 2010 and '11 but experienced a 12 percent dip in attendance in the same venue last year.
The game is bound to Charlotte for one more year, but Swofford said there has been little discussion about moving it.
Meanwhile, the ACC appears it won't follow the lead set by Big Ten football, which will stop playing FCS schools no later than 2016. Swofford said that won't be a league mandate and will remain at the discretion of individual institutions.
“There is not a strong FCS conference in the (Big Ten's) geographic footprint,” he said. “The ACC and the Southern Conference have a long history.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said ACC coaches are comfortable playing one FCS opponent per season.
“I think it's great for us to play somebody in our state, a Furman, a Citadel, and really create that revenue for our state,” Swinney said.
Swofford said the feeling among coaches is strength of schedule — a factor in determining the four teams in the championship playoff starting in 2014 — won't be compromised by one FCS foe.