Has the ACC Reached the Summit?

The Atlantic Coast Conference has just about reached its goal as the best conference in college athletics

(No one asked me, but...)

We say this with all due respect to our buddies in SEC territory, TMG's Mr College Football, Tony Barnhart (Georgia roots) and our friend over at ESPN, Ivan Maisel (Alabama roots), but that conference from the northern fringes of your territory has made a move that puts it on the cusp of being the best of the Power 5 conferences.

Yes, we know this is blasphemy in the area which counts the most, college football and we concede that football in the SEC has far more importance in the SEC than the ACC, but...

Don't you just hate "buts"...

Let's step back a bit and look at the big picture and recent history.

The ACC was always been considered the "basketball'' conference the same way the SEC was the "football '' conference, with the Tobacco Road pair of Duke and North Carolina being regarded as the gold standard.

Football was always the other sport in the ACC, but that changed when John Swofford took over as Commissioner from Gene Corrigan. The goal line changed. The ACC had visions far beyond the Mason-Dixon line. It wanted to maintain basketball dominance, of course, but the big money was in college football.

The ACC, primarily led by Florida State under the guidance of Bobby Bowden, with some push from Clemson, had a seat at the table, but not the head seat.

What was also unsettling for the ACC people, led by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, was that basketball was slipping. The ACC was overtaken by the Big East, which had the audacity to place three teams in the Final Four in 1985 ( St. Johns, Villanova, Georgetown) and later made history in 2011 by placing 11 of its 16 teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament field.

But that was a last hurrah move for the Big East, which imploded from a football/basketball civil war.

The ACC, under Swofford, had it made its move seven years earlier when it began a search and destroy mission, cherry picking the best of the Big East in football and even basketball. It gobbled up Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Miami, creating what eventually became one of the five Super Conferences in college football--SEC , Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.

Conference expansion became a cottage industry, with the jewel being the highly lucrative conference television networks.

Television payouts for each school, doubled and then double again. What was frustrating for ACC backers was that they were trailing the field again in implementing the new packages.

Not any more. In August, the ACC television network will make its debut, which will bring increased revenue (estimated an additional 10 million per school (from $26 million to 36 million) and increased exposure in not only football and basketball, but a variety of sports.

Now only, the Big 12 is without its own league-wide television network.

It comes at a time when the ACC is on an upward curve which shows no signs of declining any time soon.

Consider some recent results.

The ACC, thanks to Clemson, has won two of the last three national championships in college football, it has won three of the last six men's national basketball championships and five of the last 10.

Led by newly crowned national champion Virginia, the ACC had had (Duke and North Carolina were the others) No. 1 seeds in the most recent NCAA field.

The ACC has also made statement in women's basketball and spring sports such as baseball and lacrosse.

Coming out of their spring meetings last week, Swofford made a state of the ACC speech about the ACC television network and the overall status of the conference in general.

""We don't think we could be in any better shape than we are right now.'' said Swofford, who has elevated the ACC into a money-making multi-sport super conference.

The SEC's reign as the King of College football may be safe if you look at top to bottom depth, but if you consider titles won and championship pedigree, the ACC may have very well climbed to No. 1.

***

We will not have a Triple Crown winner in horse racing this season, but it HAS been a historic year already, with the Belmont Stakes still to be run on June 8,

We started with Kentucky Derby ""winner'' Maximum Security becoming the first winner in Derby history to be disqualified after an inquiry which was controversial at best. The winner was a 65-1 shot named Country House, who then chose not to run in the Preakness, which was the first time a Derby winner had not run in the Preakness in 23 years.

Maximum Security also skipped the Preakness, but his co-owner Gary West, suggested a multi million race among the top Derby finishers with proceeds going to charity.

Fast Forward to the Preakness, in which Bodexpress stumbled out of the gate and threw veteran jockey John Velasquez, creating the weird spectacle of a rider-lesss horse in the Preakness field.'

The winner of the race was War of Will, who was the horse directly affected when Maximum Security impeded his progress in the Derby.

Horse racing, which has been marred by a rash of thoroughbred deaths (24 at Santa Anita through December) needs a happy story in a sport which is close to being on a life support.

It won't happen, but its too bad that both War of Will and Maximum Security could stage their own "match''' race (with other horses of course) at the Belmont.

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