This year's announced 64,778 "tickets distributed" at the Dr Pepper ACC championship game was by far the smallest in the game's three-year history in the city of Charlotte. The actual attendance was probably closer to 30,000. There were two large, black tarps in the upper deck of each end zone, covering four sections of seats on each side. The bright blue seats in Bank of America Stadium were impossible to hide on TV, and the poor attendance was a hot topic on Twitter throughout the game. Whether the city of Charlotte is the right place for the championship game remains a topic of debate. Another popular alternative would be for the higher-ranked team to host the game.
The game will be played in the home stadium of the Carolina Panthers at least one more time, in 2013. It hasn't been determined beyond that.
What should the ACC do? Well, it depends on whom you ask, of course ...
Andrea Adelson: Can we please just stop the charade already?
The ACC championship game belongs on campus. Where bright blue seats will not blind television viewers, and serve as a very visible and embarrassing reminder that the ACC cannot sell out a neutral-site championship game.
Folks, what we saw Saturday in Charlotte is not anything new to this league. Jacksonville was bad. Tampa was worse. Charlotte has been better. But let us keep in mind that the league has filled its championship game to capacity or close to it just twice in eight games.
Saturday was just the latest example. Upper decks were covered in tarps. When Florida State and Georgia Tech took the field shortly before kickoff, it was hard to ignore the large swaths of empty seats.
When the majority of observers are talking about empty seats instead of the game, well, you have a problem.
This is not SEC country, and you know what? That’s fine. Nobody else is SEC country, either. The SEC is the only conference in the country that can sell out its championship game every year. The Big Ten did not last Saturday, either.
There is no shame in holding these games on campus, none at all. The Pac-12 understands its limitations in attracting neutral-site sellouts, so it made the decision to hold its conference championship game on the home campus of the higher ranked team.
I don’t have to remind you that the Pac-12 has had two higher ranked teams in its two championship games than the ACC has had the last two years. And yet, the Pac-12 felt it was in the best interest of its members and the league to forgo the neutral-site option.
Tell me where it is written that a neutral-site game enhances your product. In my estimation, the way the ACC has struggled to sell out its championship games has done more harm than good, and just adds to the perception that the league is not as strong as the others.
While Stanford also was ridiculed for failing to sell out its home stadium last week in the Pac-12 title game against UCLA, holding games on campus at least bolsters your chances of having a sellout. Plus, it gives your highest ranked team a huge advantage, one the league should want to give with BCS and possible national championship game ramifications on the line.
If I am the ACC, I want to do everything possible to ensure that my highest-ranked team either keeps its national championship game or Orange Bowl hopes alive. A large reason why Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Texas coach Mack Brown are against a Big 12 title game is because more than a fair share of upsets have happened to wreck national championship hopes.
That game was also played at a neutral site.
Look, I understand the appeal of holding neutral-site games. But on-campus championship games are a better answer for the ACC.
Heather Dinich: In 2010, there was a mixture of cold rain and sleet coming down in Charlotte as Virginia Tech and Florida State prepared to kick off in the ACC championship game.
An announced crowd of 72,379 wasn’t deterred. In 2011, the ACC championship game between Clemson and Virginia Tech drew a record crowd of 73,675. This year was an anomaly, not a trend, as far as title game attendance in Charlotte goes.
Yes, the ACC championship game is a matchup-sensitive event. Yes, the fact that a 6-6 Georgia Tech team won the Coastal Division at the expense of an ineligible Miami team contributed to an embarrassing amount of empty blue seats last weekend. But the ACC’s premier event needs a permanent home in the heart of the conference in order to help the game develop tradition and an identity, and it needs to stay in Charlotte -- not the backyard of Wake Forest or Louisville.
Ask the Pac-12 how well hosting on a campus site worked out for them this year. Even a title game that was held on Stanford’s campus didn’t guarantee a sell-out, as a pitiful crowd of 31,622 was announced.
Also, look at the ACC men’s basketball tournament and what a rich history it developed in Greensboro, N.C. From 1954 through 2000, the tournament was played in North Carolina 41 times and elsewhere only six times (three each in Atlanta and Landover, Md.), according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The ACC’s football championship is still in its infancy. It needs time to become entrenched in the Queen City, and for more fans to experience it.
Hosting the event on a campus site would dampen the party. On Friday night the ACC hosts its “Night of Legends” at the Charlotte Convention Center. It hosts the free Fan Central event at the EpiCentre in Uptown Charlotte. The FanFest on the day of the game is a monstrosity set up outside the stadium that this year included concerts from Lee Brice and Little Big Town. There are certain things some campuses in the ACC wouldn’t be able to accommodate, and the Dr Pepper sponsorship is paramount to the game’s success.
ACC officials tried Jacksonville. They tried Tampa. And on the third try, the ACC finally got it right, making Charlotte the home of the ACC championship game.