ACC coaches still tackling perception

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The ACC got a team into the College Football Playoff last year, a major accomplishment for a league that has struggled to maintain a national presence until just recently.

But seeing the way Florida State was ranked during the process had league coaches scratching their heads, believing the perceptions that have trailed the ACC ended up coloring the way the Seminoles were viewed by the selection committee.

So during an informational session with College Football Playoff Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly during the ACC spring meetings, several of them voiced their opinions about the way the rankings were handled.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was one of them.

“They explained it. I said, ‘I didn’t agree with you,’” Fisher said. "I got after them, but at the same time, I said, 'I understand what you’re doing.' I wouldn’t want that job for all the money.”

Kelly has gone to every conference spring meeting to explain how Year 1 went down for the playoff, and to hear feedback from coaches and athletic directors. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, one of the committee members, went into the meeting with the ACC coaches to explain his thought process for the rankings, too.

But even still, ACC coaches could not shake the feeling that the way they are viewed on the whole impacted the rankings. Though the Seminoles went through the regular season undefeated, the committee never had them ranked No. 1. The Noles ended up ranked No. 3 and being sent out to California to play Oregon.

The way the Rose Bowl played out may have ended up validating the No. 3 ranking, but the point the coaches wanted to make was a simple one -- the only unbeaten team from a Power 5 conference should have been treated differently.

“Florida State deserved to be a No. 1 or No. 2 ranked team, so we were all confused on the rationale behind all,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “It was good to hear them talk. We agreed with some of what they said and didn’t agree with some of what they said.

“We still feel there’s an uneven view of how good our league is. Because of what happened three or four years ago with how many titles the SEC won, that’s still carrying into the present. No matter what sport you play, you have to win it this year. It doesn’t matter what happened three years ago. With Florida State -- it doesn’t matter how they won, they won.”

Kelly expected to hear the ACC coaches speak up, the way Big 12 coaches spoke up during their meeting last week in Phoenix. But he said perception had nothing to do with the rankings.

"On the whole, people realize it’s a difficult job," Kelly said. "It’s the first year for everybody trying to learn what prism the committee members are looking at things through, so they can do whatever they need to do for their program as it relates to scheduling. From our standpoint, perceptions are something we don’t think about. That’s their opinion. To me, they did have one of the teams in the playoff. The rankings of the ACC teams in the College Football Playoff rankings are higher than they are in the other polls. The committee members did evaluate by their protocol and it’s a whole different process to how it’s done in the AP poll and computer polls. It’s something everyone has to get used to."

Still, ACC coaches felt the need to bring up all their accomplishments this past season during their meeting with Kelly, including bowl victories and players drafted. “For us, we don’t feel like there’s enough of a voice about how good the talent is in our league and what’s been going on,” Doeren said. "If we don’t stick up for our programs, nobody will.”

So they continue to do so, to anyone who will listen.

“The run Florida State had was unbelievable, just amazing what they were able to do,” Swinney said. “At the end of the day, the first College Football Playoff, the ACC had a seat there. We’ve won three Orange Bowls in a row, we had 11 bowl teams. We got incredible nonconference wins. The Atlantic Division had more draft picks than any division in college football. I don’t hear that being written about. We’re still going to talk about some other division in college football. This mighty division. The fact of the matter is this league is incredibly strong.”