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With ACC upheaval seemingly over, the schools would be wise to started looking after each other a little more.
When the Hurricanes entered the AP poll at No. 15 after their Week 2 upset of Florida, it marked the highest debut for a previously unranked ACC team since 1986.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
The response seemed telling.
A few days after his team beat No. 5Georgia in a high-profile season opener, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked a question familiar to ACC coaches: Did that result make a statement for the conference?
“Well, I don’t know about a statement for the ACC,” Swinney said. “I just think it’s a statement for Clemson. I mean, I always tell people, it’s not about the league, it’s about the program.”
Distancing himself – and his team’s moment of glory – from the conference was understandable. Dabo’s no dummy. He’s seen enough bowl busts and disappointing nonconference showings to know that hitching your hopes to the ACC can be a perilous move.
Besides, he’s right. The program is the priority. You don’t get a raise as a head coach because your conference is good; you get one for winning games and bringing excitement to the stands.
Yet later that week, Swinney couldn’t stop himself from indulging in a little league pride. According to CUTigers.com reporter Greg Wallace, as soon as Swinney finished his news conference following a Sept. 7 blowout of South Carolina State, the Clemson coach turned his attention to the out-of-town scoreboard.
Miami had upset Florida 21-16.
“How about that ACC? Spunky little old league?” Swinney said. Then, Wallace reported, Swinney made “The U” sign with his hands as he walked out the door.
The ACC needs more of that. A little more revelry in the successes of others, a little more brotherhood leading up to conference play.
A few more back slaps and “atta boys.”
The strength of a league is not measured in results alone. A conference also needs a commonality of purpose, a true sense that member schools are all pulling on the same side of the rope.
Drastic conference realignment stripped the ACC of a lot of that togetherness. Understandably so, too. If the ship’s going down, you’d better make sure you’re boxing out others to create your own path to a life raft. Self-preservation, after all, is our most natural instinct.
But with the ACC upheaval seemingly over – the Louisville-for-Maryland swap hasn’t happened yet, but everyone knows it’s coming – the schools would be wise to started looking after each other a little more. Heck, maybe even do a little bragging.
In the big picture, Swinney’s action in Week 2 (spontaneously tossing a league-mate some well-earned praise) could be just as essential to the ACC’s success as his actions in Week 1 (winning a big game).
Finding positives to espouse requires merely knowing where to look. Three ACC teams (Clemson, Florida State and Miami) are ranked in the top 16, including a pair in the top 8.
Miami’s win over the Gators made voters take notice. When the Hurricanes entered the poll at No. 15 after Week 2, it marked the highest debut for a previously unranked ACC team since Maryland came in at No. 13 on Sept. 23, 1986.
Even if the AP poll is just for show — and even if folks are weary of hearing that Miami is “back” — there have been other ripples. The Sept. 30 edition of ESPN the Magazine reported that three of Florida’s top high school recruits have been reweighing their options after victories by ACC teams over SEC teams. Miami, Clemson and FSU all could benefit.
Just as the fortunes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt have little influence on the SEC’s football image, the ACC will be judged by its strongest teams. Beyond the top three, Virginia Tech (defense looks legit) and Georgia Tech (passing game appears to be evolving) have shown some encouraging signs. North Carolina star quarterback Bryn Renner gives his team a chance on any week.
For many schools, today marks the final day of nonconference warm-ups. Virginia Tech hosts Marshall. Virginia welcomes VMI. Syracuse plays Tulane. Wake Forest goes to Army. The Florida schools get Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State. Maryland meets West Virginia in Baltimore.
This is a day for conference rivals to root on one another, to celebrate each other’s success. Only then can a spunky little old league truly hope to evolve into something more.
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