ACC MEDIA DAY: John Swofford

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ACC commissioner John Swofford discussed a number of topics with the media at ACC Media Day.

Opening Statement:
Amy, thank you. First of all, it's great to be here, and I don't think there's any question but that there is certainly a lot of excitement surrounding the 62nd season of ACC basketball. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you, and I'd like to give a very special welcome to those that are here for the first time, particularly those covering our newest member school, the University of Louisville.

This continues to be what I think is a terrific event for our league, and we hope you find today helpful as we all prepare for the season ahead. Should you need anything throughout the day or during the course of the season, please don't hesitate to ask one of our ACC staff members.

I want to specifically recognize a few members of the staff that handle basketball on a daily basis. First of all, Paul Brazeau is our new senior associate commissioner for men's basketball. He's in a meeting with our coaches at this point in time, so he's not in here, but I hope that each of you have the opportunity to meet him and get to know him, because he's a real basketball veteran. He's a Boston College grad, and I'm extremely pleased to have him with us. He had big shoes to fill when Karl Hicks left the conference office, and Karl's here today to go with Stan Wilcox to Florida State University, but as big as those shoes are, I think Paul's going to do a terrific job for us.

Brian Morrison, I know all of you know him, and he continues to do an outstanding job as our associate commissioner for men's basketball communications. John Clougherty continues as our coordinator of men's basketball officials. He's also in the coaches' meeting.

Lee Butler, we've added a new position in basketball as assistant commissioner for men's basketball operations working with Paul, and Lee is a former University of Miami player, and we're very pleased-- he's been on our staff in championships and we're very pleased to have added him to the men's basketball staff. Is Lee in here? So that's a good thing, he's out working too, I suppose. At least I hope that's where he is. (Laughs).

Kara Tyree; some of you may have seen Kara at the Greensboro Coliseum. She has joined our staff as well as a director of men's basketball operations, and we're very pleased to have her and her experiences from the Greensboro Coliseum, and of course, our senior associate commissioner for external affairs, Amy Yakola who does such an outstanding job.

They will all be available to you during the course of today should you have any specific ACC basketball questions that are not covered during this forum. With that said, let me address a few topics and then answer as many of your questions as possible.

Today provides an opportunity to focus on ACC basketball, which is certainly one of this league's most respected and tradition-laden sports. This speaks volumes when you consider the many facets in which this conference regularly excels at the highest level. You hear me communicate many academic facts over the course of the year, sometimes maybe it bores you, but I believe it's essential to consistently keep the importance of our academic and athletic balance in the forefront. It's this balance that the league was founded on over 60 years ago, and that our 15-member institutions are continuously striving to uphold on a daily basis.

I continue to be very proud of our collective member institutions and their student athletes. The academic accomplishments on an annual basis again show that the ACC leads the way among the power five conferences. The annual U.S. News and World Report Survey of Best Colleges, released in September and their member institutions, once again, led the way with an average rank of 54.8. This marks the 8th straight year that the ACC has led the power five conferences.

Our student athletes also excelled recently in NCAA graduation success rates. As teams from the ACC rank among the top Division I institutions with an average graduation rate of 88 percent. While the NCAA graduation rate is 82 percent nationally.

And just last week, former Notre Dame soccer player, Elizabeth Tucker was named the NCAA Woman of the Year, one of the NCAA's highest honors.

Each of the topics submitted surround our belief that we need to continue to ensure that the student athlete experience reflects the needs of the 21st century, and better addresses the challenges that our five conferences as well as all of Division I face going forward.

Hopefully this autonomy approach will help make the NCAA a more nimble and effective organization as we move forward. As we move toward December 1st and the specific legislation that's going to the NCAA from the various five conferences, as we deal with autonomy.

We've set up a methodology within the league to address autonomy in which we put together our 5-5-5 committees where we have five athletic directors, five presidents, five faculty representatives, and they will be developing specific legislation based on improving the student athlete experience and moving that legislation forward by December 1st. It will then be voted on in January in Washington, D.C., the first opportunity for us to work with the new NCAA autonomy process, and I think that will prove to be helpful.

It's going to be a little bit of back to the old days where we're sitting in a large conference room, except it won't be as large, and raising paddles in terms of NCAA legislation. And I suspect the way we vote will be a little different than raising paddles. I hope the technology will have improved some for this particular session, but it will be sort of a back-to-the-future moment, I think, when all 65 institutions, and including student athletes representing the various conferences and having votes are in that room with the ability to impact and effect changes for the five major conferences. So we look forward to that.

Now, let's focus specifically on ACC basketball and the season ahead. As many of you have noted, based on past successes, this may be the strongest collection of basketball programs in history. I think historically it certainly falls into that category. Obviously we need on the court to live up to that. I think we have a great opportunity to do so.

The teams, coaches and players that are part of the ACC are second to none in so many aspects of college basketball. For instance, the current 15-member schools have combined for 565 NCAA tournament wins making the ACC the all-time winningest conference in the NCAA tournament. We have the highest NCAA tournament winning percentage at 61 percent.

Six of the last 14 NCAA basketball championships have been won by teams currently competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That's twice as many as any other league. Teams currently in our league have combined to win 15 NCAA national championships, with North Carolina winning five, Duke four, Louisville three, NC State two, and Syracuse one.

We have three of the Top 5, four of the Top 9, and five of the Top 11 winningest programs in collegiate basketball history. This year we welcome new head coaches at three of our programs, in Jim Christian of Boston College, Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech and Danny Manning of Wake Forest. In addition, we welcome Louisville's Rick Pitino as the Cardinals make their debut in the league. Rick is also one of the league's four active Division I coaches that are already in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, along with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. ,P> While talking about these four coaches, it's worth noting a few of their accomplishments that have set them apart across the entire collegiate landscape. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is 17 wins shy of becoming the first coach in NCAA Division I men's basketball history to win 1,000 games in his career. He and Jim Boeheim are the two winningest coaches, not only active, but in Division I history. Among coaches with 20 or more years, North Carolina's Roy Williams is the NCAA's winningest active coach with a 79 percent winning percentage. Rick Pitino is five wins away from reaching the 700 win mark, which would make the ACC the first conference in NCAA history to have four active coaches with 700 or more career wins.

Collectively our 15 head coaches enter this season with 6,427 wins, nine national titles, 302 NCAA tournament victories, 80 Sweet 16 appearances, 30 trips to the Final Four, and 18 national title game appearances.

I also want to congratulate Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim for leading Team USA to the world championships this past summer. With such successful programs and the great anticipation that we see year in and year out for ACC basketball, I have no doubt that this season will once again be must watch.

As was announced during our spring meetings last year, we will experiment with using a 30-second shot clock during the exhibition games this fall. The goal of the recommendation, which came from our coaches and was ratified by our athletic directors, was to see if this had the potential to increase the number of possessions and ultimately speed up the game. And we look forward to sharing whatever experiences we have with that with the men's basketball rules committee at the end of the season.

In addition to the teams, coaches and players that make this league special in basketball, we have many venues that are regularly featured as the most difficult home-court environments for opponents. These venues are unrivaled when it comes to tradition, history and passionate and dedicated fans. Last year our 15 schools combined to set a single season attendance mark with over 2.8 million fans. Three of our current teams finished last season ranked in the top four of Division I basketball. Syracuse led the way, and also owns the on-campus attendance record for a game with over 35,000 against Duke in last year's very memorable game.

Syracuse led the nation and set ACC records in both total attendance and per-game average at 26,250. Louisville at 21,282 was third in per-game attendance, and North Carolina fourth at 18,025.

Five ACC teams are in the Top-25 rankings for the best home-court winning percentage, which again illustrates, I think, how difficult this league is to play in game in and game out, and I think we'd all agree that that's part of the fun that we have with ACC basketball.

For those not able to attend in person, every ACC-controlled game will again be available nationwide. Our relationship with ESPN allows us to maximize our reach and bring ACC basketball content to fans wherever they are across a multitude of devices, whether traditional television or national digital and mobile platforms, such as ESPN3 and watch ESPN, ACC content is truly available everywhere. Last year we were the highest rated conference on ESPN, which is certainly a tribute to the competition and the quality programs in this league.

Highlighting our appearances on ESPN this year our top matchup is slated for big Monday marking the second consecutive year that the league has been featured. Every game on the Big Monday schedule will include at least one team ranked in the preseason Top-25 poll and will be televised nationally by ESPN or ESPN2.

The 16th annual ACC BIG TEN Challenge will now include 14 games, and all will be available on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. This has been a great competition for both leagues as it brings national attention in the early season to our players, coaches and programs.

In addition to ESPN, the ACC Network, through Raycom, continues to be broader than ever before, with a reach of over 93 million households in over 80 percent of the United States. The ACC Network is available in each of the Top 10 television markets within the U.S., and in 17 of the top 20. With no geographic parameters as it once had for distribution, the ACC Network has grown 192 percent in the past four years.

We're also extremely pleased that our partners at Fox Sports South will again be broadcasting ACC basketball across the Fox regional networks, completing our very comprehensive television coverage.

From a digital standpoint, the ACC continues to develop offerings that allow fans more access than ever before. This includes expanding content offerings in the official ACC mobile app, the introduction of the football challenge gaming app, and coming soon a new responsive website.

The ACC Digital Network is flourishing, and its unique video content is now distributed to over 400 million fans. The ACC DN Game Highlights, Must-See Moments and other feature content is distributed On Demand across a multitude of platforms. Moving forward, we continue to have productive and insightful discussions with ESPN about the potential of an ACC channel, and I'm pleased with how these discussions continue to progress.

With the most television households and highest population of any conference, we're in a strong position, and we remain committed to providing ACC content to fans anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

As was announced this past May, and I'll use this phrase again, in a back-to-the-future way, and for the first time since 19 81, the ACC tournament will have a Saturday Primetime final, and Friday night Primetime semifinals. The Tuesday through Saturday format, we think will be terrific for our players, coaches and fans, and we're pleased to once again have every game of the tournament broadcast nationally on both ESPN and the ACC Network, with no blackouts.

Since we were together at last year's operation basketball, we've also announced a number of our future ACC basketball tournament sites, which include a combination of outstanding venues, and I think reflects the ACC's expanded reach. This rotation respects the past history of this event, and yet, embraces our current footprint, so we've got a blending over the next six years of the past with the present. Following this year's regular season, the ACC tournament will be held at the Greensboro Coliseum. That's a venue in which we have had great success and more than 2.2 million fans over the last 25 years.

We'll also be back in Greensboro in 2020. In between in 2016 we'll move to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., which last hosted the tournament in 2005. The feedback that our schools and fans provided about that experience was extremely positive, and we look forward to returning to the Nation's Capital with our signature event.

In 2017 and 2018 the ACC tournament will be played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Barclays Center has quickly emerged as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in the world, and Brooklyn is a hotspot within the New York marketplace, which of course, is now an important part of our league's expanded footprint.

In 2019 the tournament will be held at Time Warner Cable Arena here in Charlotte. Charlotte has hosted our tournament on 12 previous occasions, and interestingly enough, in three different arenas. Time Warner Arena is a state-of-the-art facility, and there continues to be a strong relationship between the ACC and the city of Charlotte, which also, of course, does a great job hosting our ACC Football Championship game. We feel that the ACC basketball tournament is the premier collegiate basketball tournament, and these destinations will benefit our teams, our fans and alumni. In closing, and I know many of you have some questions, and I'll get to as many of them as I can, but first I want to again thank each of you for your coverage of college basketball, your coverage of the Atlantic Coast Conference, our schools, our players and our coaches. Amy?

In the wake of last week's North Carolina report, I presume you've read it, were there red flags there that as you look back on your tenure as athletic director, that you could have or should have seen?
David, I don't think so. I think if you look at that report there, in my last few years there, there were some, in terms of numbers, very relatively minimal, independent study classes and AFAM, but that really took off in about 2000. So it never came up while I was there as an issue from any source. If it had, obviously, we would have addressed that with the appropriate people. But it never arose as any issue at all.

While you were the athletic director there, you created separation between academic support and the athletic department. Why did you do that, and again, in hindsight, was the distance created not great enough, and if so, why do you think that distance created was not great enough?
Well, I don't know-- you know, there are two things you have to look at, one, the system and what's systemic, and the other is, you know. You can have the best structures and setup in the world with anything. But if you have some individuals who choose to, you know, do something outside of the mission, so to speak, or in a different way, then that can undermine that. ,P> I asked that we move our academic counseling program for athletes out of athletics and into the college of arts and sciences, not because I saw any particular problems with it. It just philosophically was and still is something that I believe in, because I think there needs to be a certain separation of church and state, if you will, when it comes to academics. And I think that's the appropriate way to, you know, to help make that happen.

Obviously you've gotta-- you need to connect the two, and you need to understand what student athletes go through and their time demands, but they also need to be free to major in what they want to major in and to have as many opportunities as is possible that universities present while they try to compete at the highest level. And you know, I just always felt that a separation there is just philosophically and fundamentally healthy. Different schools do it different ways. You know, that's simply a personal view that I have.

John, will the ACC have a representative at the committee on infractions meeting with Syracuse this week?
We will.

And any concerns just overall with that investigation wrapping up with the North Carolina investigation underway for the overall reputation of the conference?
Well, obviously the two don't have anything to do with each other, and I really can't-- you know, we-- the NCAA asked us not to talk about ongoing investigations, so we never have done that, and I won't do that in this case.

But you know, anytime one of our schools has a compliance issue, it's of concern regardless of what it is or who it is, and you want to see as few of those as possible. And if you look at this league, over the past decade, the past two decades, the past three decades, what you'll find in terms of major NCAA violations is that we've had fewer than any of the other power conferences, and wept to keep it that way, because that's been a part of our culture, and it's an important part of our culture.

John, with the Carolina stuff and Syracuse and the Miami football thing, I mean is there a concern that the league's academic athletic model is somehow being eroded? Is there any response to that?
Well, I don't think it's being eroded. I think obviously there are a few issues now. There was a previous issue. You know, you mentioned the three. And that's not something you want. But, you know, our cornerstones in this league are the balance of academics with nationally competitive athletic programs, doing it with compliance-- you know, in compliance with NCAA rules. And that won't change. I think what you do when you have these problems as an institution is identify them, correct them, make changes that need to be made, bring them to closure, which is sometimes very challenging, and then move on in a stronger and better way. So I think when these issues come up as a league, it just, frankly, strengthens our resolve to make certain that we-- you know, wept-- there's one thing we want to lose on, and that is we want to have the last number of compliance issues. You know, you usually want to win these things. That's one we want to lose, and we're used to losing it, and we want to make certain that we continue that.

How big a concern is it for the league that there may be further and more substantial sanctions placed on UNC because of the Wainstein report, and including potential for banners coming down?
I really can't comment on that at this point in time because that's a hypothetical right now. We'll just-- you know, obviously you don't want any of your programs hindered by NCAA penalties, but you know, if you have some that are, you move on, and that institution moves on.

John, you found the UNC report disturbing and troubling and shocking. I'm not getting any kind of sense of what your personal reaction was as the commissioner of this conference? I mean, are you just disgusted by that report, what you found in there, revolted? Seemed like athletes were kind of given a disservice here by people that just wanted to keep them eligible. What were your personal feelings about that report?
Well, I'm not going to get into my personal feelings about it a great deal. From a commissioner's standpoint, it's something that, you know, you don't want to see. I think Carolina through this last report has addressed it with a great deal of transparency and thoroughness. Now it's time to-- for that institution, with the NCAA, to bring the NCAA investigation to closure, and then that-- and I think they're on their road to that now.

And then with whatever that brings, then move forward, as I said earlier, move forward, make the changes that need to be made, strengthen yourself, set in motion things that will guarantee as much as you possible can, that something like that will never happen again, and, you know, and learn from it.

And one of the things about being in a conference, and I think particularly this one, is when there are issues, and fortunately we haven't had a lot of them, so anytime we have a cluster of them, it seems like a lot of them, but when we do, when it's over with at each institution, that institution sits down with the rest of the league and says, here's what happened; here's why it happened, we believe; here's what we learned from it; here's what we've changed. And take this and apply it to your particular situation, and maybe it can be helpful to you. We do that every time there's an NCAA problem of any significance.

And you know, that's part of being a conference, and it's something that I think is a positive part of our culture.

Were you disturbed or mad?
I'm not going to put-- I don't like it. There's-- but I'm not going to stand up here and start throwing adjectives out. I don't think that serves any purpose, you know. What I want to see now is, you know, bring it to culmination, improve what needs to be improved and let's move forward in a more positive way.

This is a turbulent time, not only for the ACC but college sports as a whole with questions about whether athletes should get paid. What do you feel about cost of living stipend for athletes?
Well, first of all, I do not think athletes should be paid, and I think-- I believe in the college experience, the collegiate model, if you want to call it that. I think it has been a very important part of the culture of this country. It's unique in the world. It's not perfect. It needs to be adjusted. And I think we have an opportunity now to bring some things into the 21st century, mainly related to what's best and right for our student athletes.

And I think the new structure in the NCAA will give us the opportunity to do that. With opportunity comes responsibility, and so the collective five conferences, as well as all of Division I when it's legislation outside of the five, you know, we need to take this very, very seriously, because we're at a point in time where college athletics is being-- is sort of under siege from, you know, whether it's the courts, potentially whether it's Congress, you know, whatever it might be. And I think anytime you have those situations, it can be uncomfortable, it can be problematic, but the way to look at it is that it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to make something better.

I think if you're going to go to college and play sports, you should be a student, as simple as that sounds, but I also understand that the scholarship has not really been adjusted since the early 1970s. So that needs to happen. With some of the litigation that's going on right now, we don't have the-- by we, I'm talking about conference to conference, institution to institution, we can't collectively converse about some things that we are used to be being to converse about.

And you know, I think what we will have, I'd be shocked if we don't end up with full cost of attendance as the definition of the scholarship, and I think that'll happen in January. I think you'll see-- right now a lot of people don't understand this, but four-year scholarships are-- our institutions can do that now, if they choose to do so. But I think you'll see more and more of that. I think you'll see a commitment to the continuation of scholarships beyond eligibility so that student athletes have the opportunity to come back and get their degree, or possibly even get their degree at another institution.

A lot of our schools feel that, you know, that should be a part of it as well. I think we'll see more freedom in terms of insurance, loss of value insurance as well as medical insurance. You know, I think all of those things are coming, and I think they'll be very beneficial to our athletes.

But I think we've got a model that's fundamental to this country's culture that I'd hate to see us lose, and you know, when you start making players at our institutions employees, you know, in just about every poll that I've seen taken from the public is that that's not what people, you know, want to see.

And you know, the reason I went into this profession is because of my belief in the marriage, if you will, of academics and athletics, and how special that can be when it's done correctly. When it's not done correctly, it can be ugly, but when it's done correctly, it can be a beautiful thing, in my mind, and I think, you know, we don't want to end up taking opportunities away from Olympic sport athletes that are currently there. So I think we have to be careful with that.

You know, I hope we will always have something resembling the collegiate model that we have now, but it does need to be-- the situation for our student athletes does need to be enhanced, without question, but I think you can do that without it being pay for play. You know, I think it needs to be done in a way that is education connected. Sorry for the long answer.

John, in 1982 when you were still athletic director at North Carolina and the NCAA brought down sanctions on Clemson university one year, you advocated that the conference add an additional year or more to Clemson in light of all of the new sanction-- or all of the new allegations against North Carolina, will you advocate more sanctions against the Tarheels?
Well, first of all, I didn't advocate in 1982. That was a situation at that point in time where even if I had, I don't think anybody would have listened to me, because I was the rookie in the room.

But that was a situation and a time when the conference, through the faculty athletic representatives and the presidents would take a look at every NCAA sanction that came down. Not that-- again, not that there were very many, and decide whether the conference should add to that. We no longer do that in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The presidents decided that that wasn't something they wanted on the books any longer, that they would accept whatever the NCAA sanctions were and would not take those sanctions any further.

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