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ACC treads cautiously towards title game

[ Originally posted 07.23.03 ]

By The Associated Press

GREENSBORO, GA — Even if the NCAA changes its rule and allows the Atlantic Coast Conference to hold a lucrative football championship game, the league might wait until 2005 to do so.

"You need to make certain that the first time you do it you do it well and give it every chance of being successful," ACC commissioner John Swofford said Tuesday. "You need to give it solid footing to build on for the future."

The ACC last week petitioned the governing body of college sports to let leagues with 10 or more teams play a title game. The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech on June 30 formed an 11-team ACC.

Only conferences with 12 or more schools, such as the SEC and Big 12, are allowed to play title games now.

The ACC probably won't know until April 2004 whether the NCAA rule on a football championship will be changed, meaning the league would have seven months to put together the title game.

That might not be enough time, Swofford said.

"We're going to have to evaluate whether that's a wise thing to do or not," Swofford said when asked about a possible title game as soon as next season.

In another matter at the league's annual football kickoff, the ACC signed a two-year deal for a spot in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, giving the conference six guaranteed bowl spots. The probable opponent is the WAC champion.

The ACC will soon begin planning for the conference championship game, not knowing whether the rule will be changed, Swofford said.

"I think that's a coin flip at this point," he said. "It's a little early in the process to try to handicap whether it passes or not."

The ACC has had feelers from Charlotte, N.C., Jacksonville, Fla., Orlando and Atlanta about hosting a football title game. Other possible sites include Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C.

Swofford believes the ACC title game could make as much as $10 million.

"But you really don't know until you are there and a lot of factors enter into that, including timing as it relates to the state of the economy," he said.

The ACC will seek advice in the next few months from the SEC and Big 12 about why their title games are successful, and address the corporate sponsorship issue, Swofford said.

"The SEC has an optimal situation that you can have for a championship game, playing in a big city and in a dome, but they didn't start that way," he said. "They started in Birmingham and then moved to Atlanta."

Atlanta appears to be a long shot to host the ACC title game because the SEC game is in place there through 2008.

"We would be interested in discussing with the ACC about a possible title game, but we would do nothing to jeopardize our relationship with the SEC," said Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.

Stokan said a possible scenario for Atlanta would be for the ACC to hold its title game a week before the SEC game.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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