ACC wraps meetings with eye on future

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The ACC spring meetings wrapped up quietly Thursday morning and with little fanfare.

Commissioner John Swofford sure was happy about that.

With little in the way of announcements or realignment drama, Swofford was able to look forward to the opportunities that await his league, now that the grant of rights has been signed and the full future 15-member contingent was in place here.

"Just a lot of positive going on for the entire meetings, and I think a lot of excitement from this group looking ahead in terms of what the possibilities are, so that's all very, very positive," Swofford said. "That's the biggest takeaway from the meeting, actually."

All that mattered when athletic directors broke from meetings Thursday -- conference stability. That was the key word used by coaches, ADs and Swofford. There is work now to be done in the coming weeks and months.

First on the agenda will be solidifying bowl tie-ins. Much progress has been made here, and official announcements should come in the next several weeks. It already has been reported the ACC has been exploring a new tie-in with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and reconnecting with the Gator Bowl. Opponents are also set to change in the Russell Athletic Bowl (Big 12) -- which could move up in the pecking order -- and the Belk Bowl (SEC). Both previously featured a team from the soon-to-be renamed Big East.

The league will end up with nine or 10 guaranteed spots, now that 15 teams -- including Notre Dame -- will be in the mix.

"I like the track we’re on, and I think we’ll be in good shape when that’s all said and done," Swofford said. "We’re working our way through that. You want to protect any bowl-eligible teams that you have, if you can. As a 15-member league in terms of the bowls, we don’t have any real history yet of what that right number is in terms of a sweet spot."

He said he expects hybrid partnerships with other conferences for bowl slots, creating more flexibility for bowl games. The league could also could take a more active role in determining bowl matchups with the games themselves.

Swofford also has work to do with the other commissioners in determining the look of the selection committee for the College Football Playoff. League coaches favor having the coaches' poll as one criteria the committee uses, and would prefer the group to be patterned after the basketball selection committee. Swofford said the league has not taken a formal position to take to the next commissioners meeting, where parameters of the group and selection criteria will be discussed.

"It’s a challenge," Swofford said. "I’m confident we’ll reach an end point where there’s a committee of great integrity and legitimacy that can do the job, but it’s challenging to structure the very first one. The basketball committee and all the other NCAA sport committees are made up in similar fashion, so it’s probably appropriate that be considered here as well, although a lot of the conversation has been about other individuals. The idea is people that know the game and are highly respected and bring a great deal of integrity to the group, because it will be scrutinized tremendously picking only four teams."

Also on the table into the future is the creation of an ACC Network, something that was discussed here but is in the early stages.

No decision has been reached on where to play the future ACC men's basketball tournament, either, though going into the Northeast and perhaps Madison Square Garden or even the Barclays Center in Brooklyn remains on the table.