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ACC Offseason Update

October 14, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



ACC Offseason News Update

by Michael Protos


The ACC seems to find a way to remain in headlines regardless of whether or not it’s basketball season. Duke lost a recruit through circumstances that question the sanctity of the national letter of intent. The earth-shaking coaching change at North Carolina created tremors felt as far west as Kansas. But the biggest news since last March actually involves teams not even in the ACC.

At least not yet.

Officials from each ACC school negotiated several expansion proposals in May through June over numerous conference calls, which probably cost as much as, say, the additional revenue from a hyped-up football conference championship game. In late June, the officials extended invitations to the Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies to become the tenth and eleventh members of the ACC.

Virginia Tech jumped at the opportunity and accepted the offer June 27. Miami hesitated, likely causing the ACC top dogs to chew off their fingernails during that weekend, before accepting the invitation June 30.

And when expansion finally seemed to simmer down a bit, ACC officials extended a twelfth invitation to the Boston College Eagles to become the twelfth ACC school.

But the final results don’t tell half the story.

In the beginning of the expansion talks, the goal seemed clear – obtain three more teams to make the ACC a twelve team conference and eligible for a football conference championship game. The game would presumably bring in millions of extra dollars that the institutions could then spread throughout their athletic programs. ACC officials listed Miami, Boston College and Syracuse as the targets for expansion.

From the beginning, Miami was clearly the gem that ACC officials sought to add to their bag of riches. Despite recent success by Maryland and NC State, perhaps officials tired of Florida State pulverizing ACC competition in football. No doubt, expansion had little consideration for improving ACC basketball. But the temptation to go for the conference championship game proved too alluring to pass up.

Miami, Boston College and Syracuse are all Big East teams. Such a coup could have crippled the Big East’s football tradition. So the Big East and several of its member institutions filed a lawsuit to stop the allegedly hostile expansion. Virginia Tech was listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit marked the deterioration of this process from touchy to embarrassing for all parties. Politics quickly entered the arena, with Virginia’s president receiving pressure from state leaders to vote against ACC expansion unless Virginia Tech was included. Politicians sought to protect two of their larger state schools but also fouled, and foiled, the process for the ACC.

Virginia had held the decisive seventh vote in favor of expansion. ACC rules require seven schools to approve expansion and Duke and North Carolina politely declined to join the ACC’s version of manifest destiny. Clearly, their football programs had little to gain from an additional powerhouse like Miami joining the ACC. Syracuse would have been an interesting addition for basketball, but with twelve teams, the classic home-away series against each ACC opponent would die.

So Virginia backed out, unless the ACC included Virginia Tech in the expansion offers. Suddenly, there was talk of all four – Miami, Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia Tech – joining the ACC. A thirteen-team conference would facilitate a football conference championship game but would present all sorts of scheduling problems.

The end result: Miami and Virginia Tech received invitations in June, and the ACC expanded for the first time since Florida State joined the ACC in 1991.

Throughout the summer, the ACC lobbied for the NCAA to sanction a football championship game for an eleven-team conference, which the ACC would become with the addition of the Hurricanes and the Hokies. NCAA officials, however, refused to cater to the ACC, which left the conference without its original goal.

Rumors spread through the East Coast and into the Midwest as ACC officials pondered a twelfth team but without nearly the fanfare that surrounded the process in May and June. Early in October, ACC officials met yet again to vote on expansion and approved an offer to Boston College. School officials accepted the invitation Oct. 12, making the Eagles the twelfth team and facilitating a conference football championship game.

The Hurricanes and Hokies will begin to play in the ACC in the 2004-05 season. The exact time frame for the Eagles to join the conference has not been set as Boston College negotiates exit fees with the Big East.

Basketball ramifications

As of early October, ACC officials decided to abandon the format of every team playing each other twice. If that were to survive expansion, each ACC team would play so many conference games that the conference schedule would drastically cut into the NCAA-regulated total number of games a team can schedule each season. Each team would only have room to schedule a handful of non-conference games, which frequently differentiates teams for the NCAA Tournament selection committee through statistics like strength of schedule and records against ranked teams.

But with the loss of playing each conference opponent twice, inequity can occur if a middle-of-the-pack team gets to play the conference cupcakes twice a season and the powerhouses only once. For example, imagine if Georgia Tech had played Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Miami twice last season, but if they only played NC State, Duke, Maryland and Wake Forest once. The Yellow Jackets could have had a better record than NC State, and maybe even Duke. But would they really have proven to be the better team?

Also, imagine college basketball if North Carolina and Duke did not play twice. The ACC features many rivalries that college basketball fans nationwide anticipate throughout the season.

Before Boston College joined the league, ACC officials designated rivals in an attempt to preserve the best ACC matchups. Rivals will play each other twice. Of the remaining eight teams (think: one team, which obviously cannot play itself, has two rivals, totaling four games), a team will four of them twice and four of them only once. With the addition of Boston College, format changes may be drastic or subtle. Here are the designated rivalries for at least the next two seasons, again excluding the recently added Boston College:

Clemson: Georgia Tech and Florida State
Duke: North Carolina and NC State
Florida State: Miami and Clemson
Georgia Tech: Clemson and Wake Forest
Maryland: Duke and Virginia
Miami: Florida State and Virginia Tech
North Carolina: Duke and NC State
NC State: Duke and North Carolina
Virginia: Maryland and Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech: Miami and Virginia
Wake Forest: Georgia Tech and NC State

Individual school news:

Clemson Tigers

Clemson let Larry Shyatt resign as head coach following last season’s 15-13 finish. More importantly, Clemson yet again failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. Oliver Purnell replaces Shyatt as coach. Purnell was last seen guiding the Dayton Fliers to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He has a career record of 256-191 and looks to establish a winning tradition at Clemson.

If a call for walk-ons is any indication of the lack of depth and talent on this roster, Purnell may be in for a long first season. Purnell asked resident Tiger ballers to try out Saturday, Oct. 18, for a chance to join the squad.

Duke Blue Devils

The biggest news for Duke this offseason is a bizarre recruiting turnabout. Kris Humphris and Luol Deng were two of the most heralded recruits in this season’s freshman class, and both were headed to Duke. Added to an already talent-laden, youth-filled lineup, Duke looked to add to the riches. But Humphries changed his mind, after signing a national letter of intent.

Recruits have changed their minds before, so this is not a historic event. But after choosing Minnesota for his collegiate career (or at least the start of his career), Humphries will play this season because the NCAA decided not to impose a one-year sit-down. Barring rather stringent extenuating circumstances, the NCAA requires recruits to sit out a season if they change schools after signing the national letter of intent, just like transfers who must sit two semesters from the day they enroll at a new school. Humprhies’ change of heart questions the heart and soul of the national letter of intent.

Luckily, the news was not all bad for Duke. Sophomore forward Shavlik Randolph had hip surgery and should be even better and stronger in his second season. Randolph averaged 7.4 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman but missed time toward the end of the season due to injury.

Blue Devil fans celebrated more good news when the Boston Celtics drafted Dahntay Jones, Duke’s senior leader last season, in the first round of the NBA Draft. The Celtics traded Jones to Memphis, where he will join former Blue Devil Shane Battier.

Looking forward to this season, Duke had two players named as Preseason Wooden Award Candidates – senior guard Chris Duhon and sophomore guard J.J. Redick.

Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles had a relatively quiet summer as coach Leonard Hamilton hit the recruiting trail and prepared to enter his second season. Hinting toward better times for Florida State basketball, Athlon Magazine’s men’s basketball preview issue placed senior guard Tim Pickett on the cover. Perhaps the most offseason news occurred outside of Tallahassee, as media sources began to whisper that Florida State may have a breakthrough year in the ACC. By the end of the year, they may be shouting that.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Yellow Jackets endured a rather difficult offseason, suffering a couple of major setbacks. Forward Chris Bosh bolted the Jackets for the allure of money and fame in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors drafted Bosh fourth overall. Bosh posted sensational numbers in his lone season at Georgia Tech – 15.6 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game and 2.2 blocks per game.

In addition to Bosh, the Yellow Jackets lost another interior warrior. Ed Nelson transferred to Connecticut after two seasons at Georgia Tech, during which he averaged 8.3 rebounds per game and, more importantly, 6.7 rebounds per game. He was the ACC Rookie of the Year two seasons ago but did not meet expectations last season. There was hope, however, he would reemerge this season as an interior terror on both ends of the court.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech resigned coach Paul Hewitt for five additional years through 2007-08. Hewitt has three years and a 48-44 record under his belt at Georgia Tech.

Maryland Terrapins

Maryland Terrapin fans do not have to travel far to see their beloved Steve Blake play ball – the Washington Wizards drafted the former Maryland point guard in the second round of the NBA Draft. Blake joins former Terrapin Juan Dixon on the Wizards’ roster and will look to deliver that team the same success that Dixon and Blake enjoyed at Maryland.

Numbers proved that Maryland’s new digs, the Comcast Center, attracts fans. Maryland averaged 17,566 fans in sixteen home games, which was fifth best in the nation for last season. The Terrapins trailed only Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville and North Carolina.

NC State Wolfpack

Whether or not Josh Powell will find fame and fortune at the professional level is an unfinished story, but his collegiate career as a member of the Wolfpack certainly is finished. Powell left the Wolfpack after two seasons to enter the NBA Draft. But NBA passed over Powell, who averaged 12.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game last season. After playing well for the Dallas Mavericks in NBA summer league action, the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the CBA drafted Powell first overall. But the CBA is not the professional league for which Powell sacrificed the last two years of college.

Fortunately, the Wolfpack’s most dominant player, junior guard Julius Hodge remains at NC State. Hodge was named as a Preseason Wooden Award candidate.

North Carolina Tar Heels

The story of the offseason for the Tar Heels is the removal of former coach Matt Doherty and the arrival of new coach Roy Williams. North Carolina unsuccessfully wooed Williams three years ago when officials hired Doherty to continue the legacy of Tar Heel basketball. Doherty compiled a 53-43 record but endured numerous transfers and heated controversy about his coaching style. Reports from the inside hint that Doherty rubbed many Tar Heel basketball legends and players the wrong way.

After Doherty resigned, speculation instantaneously drifted toward Roy Williams, who was in the midst of coaching Kansas at the Final Four. Shortly after his Jayhawks’ lost the national championship game to Syracuse, Williams left Kansas to return to the place he started his coaching career.

Sophomore forward Sean May completed rehabilitation of his foot that sidelined him for most of the second half of North Carolina’s season. May averaged 11.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game in eleven games before the injury.

Sophomore guards Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants were named as Preseason Wooden Award candidates after stellar first seasons as Tar Heels.

Virginia Cavaliers

After finishing the Cavaliers’ season in the doghouse for conduct detrimental to the team, guard Keith Jenifer has officially left the program. Jenifer averaged 5.6 points per game and 5.5 assists per game as the starting point guard in Virginia’s first fourteen games last season.

Jermaine Harper, a guard who frequently contributed off the bench in 2001-02, transferred to California State – Fullerton after not playing last season. He averaged 5.8 points per game as a freshman in 2001-02.

And one more Cavalier jumped ship this offseason – senior center Nick Vander Laan. Vander Laan returns to the West Coast from whence he came. Vander Laan played one season for Virginia last season after transferring from California. He averaged 5.3 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. Vander Laan is expected to return to Concordia University in California.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Demon Deacons enjoyed a relatively quiet offseason, which few other ACC schools can claim. The highlight of the summer occurred when the Dallas Mavericks selected Josh Howard, Wake Forest’s four-year superstar, in the final pick of the NBA Draft’s first round.

     

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