I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’ve generated white-hot buzz, but Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford’s comments that an on-campus ACC football championship game is “on the table” are at least interesting.
The ACC commish threw out the possibility (however small) on the David Glenn radio program earlier this month.
“The game has been more successful in Charlotte (at Bank of America Stadium) than anywhere else we have taken it,” Swofford said. “Sometimes, we have some discussion about the game being on-campus, which is what the Pac-12 is doing. But I think the success of the game in Charlotte probably bodes well for its future in Charlotte.”
The problem with the ACC Championship Game — and it’s a problem for any league whose acronym isn’t SEC — is that the game doesn’t have built-in “big event” status.
The SEC was fortunate that in that its first title game in 1992 was a thriller. Alabama beat Florida 28-21 in the inaugural contest at Birmingham’s Legion Field and then went on to thump Miami in the Sugar Bowl, 34-13, and claim the national championship.
Since moving to Atlanta in 1994 the showdown between the league’s East and West champs has become a bigger “bowl” than most BCS bowl games, always drawing huge crowds and garnering great TV ratings.
The SEC Championship Game is the original and remains the best — and it doesn’t hurt that it has served as a national semifinal for seven consecutive seasons.
To date, none of the other leagues have come close to matching it in prestige or success.
That’s why an on-campus league title game might make the most sense for the ACC.
Yes, Charlotte is fine when the ACC Championship Game features a game (and teams) fans want to see.
But that’s not always the case.
Announced attendance for the Florida State-Georgia Tech matchup last season was roughly 10,000 short of Bank of America Stadium’s 73,000-plus capacity.
But keep in mind the “official” number of 64,778 only accounts for tickets distributed — and doesn’t account for the people who had tickets but never distributed their fannies into seats.
In the beginning, it appeared the ACC Championship Game might actually be able to stand toe-to-toe with its counterpart in the SEC.
The first was held in 2005 at Jacksonville’s Municipal Stadium, and Florida State’s 27-22 victory over Virginia Tech was seen by nearly 73,000 in-house fans and got better TV ratings than the SEC Championship Game that year.
But attendance — and interest — has varied wildly ever since.
The last time it was played in Jacksonville (2007) only 53,212 fans showed up to see Virginia Tech beat Boston College, 30-16.
The title game was then relocated to Tampa and Raymond James Stadium, and the results were embarrassing.
A grand total of 27,360 souls were on hand to see the Hokies beat the Golden Eagles, 30-12, in 2008, and in 2009 Georgia Tech’s 39-34 conquest of Clemson brought in 44,897 fans — more than 20,000 short of capacity.
So Charlotte was called on to save the day in 2010, and the Queen City has clearly been the best spot for the ACC Championship Game.
But best isn’t always good enough.
Last year’s attendance slide would’ve never happened had the matchup been played in Tallahassee.
Despite the fact that Georgia Tech “won” the ACC Coastal Division title only because North Carolina wasn’t eligible, it’s safe to say that most of the spots at 82,300-seat Doak Campbell Stadium would’ve been filled.
And if Clemson ever got to host, at least 81,500 would cram into Death Valley to see the Atlantic Division champs.
I doubt Swofford and the brain trust of the ACC is losing sleep over the fate of the conference’s title game, but the on-campus idea deserves some more thought.
It might be the best thing to happen to the ACC postseason.