I had a chance to catch up with ACC commissioner John Swofford on a number of relevant topics in college football. You can read his comments on Jim Harbaugh's decision to hold part of Michigan spring practice in Florida here.
For his take on the other issues, here is what Swofford had to say.
You recently added an assistant coordinator for football replay. A few weeks later, the NCAA rules committee voted to allow conferences to try centralized replay on an experimental basis. Is this something the ACC wants to do?
JS: I think we may. It’s a little premature to say that we will but we will look at it very seriously. We’ll make that decision at the May meeting one way or the other. We’re going to look into what would be involved in that, what would be the expense of that, what can we gain from it? That whole area of replay has risen to a very important level in the overall officiating of the game and we want to be as progressive as we can be with all of that.
What is your hope with a coordinator in the ACC specifically assigned to replay?
JS: Part of that is consistency in training the replay officials, taking a look at what a replay official should look like does it necessarily have to be someone who has been on the field for X number of years? That’s been a prototype across the country but it may be that there are people who haven’t spent a great deal of time on the field that would be excellent replay officials. It’s not exactly the same skill set necessarily but I think consistency of training and consistency of decisions not only within a conference but nationally is one of the real focal points. I think that’s an important part of it.
Conference championship game deregulation also passed, but not in the form the ACC initially proposed two years ago. Conferences may hold a championship game without divisions -- as long as their teams play a round-robin schedule. What is your reaction to that?
JS: I’m glad what passed passed because it’s helpful particularly to the Big 12 if they want to go in that direction. I don’t know why there are any parameters on it, but ours was really a philosophical approach in terms of simply feeling that conferences should have that prerogative without having parameters on it. So it doesn’t affect us directly one way or another. In our discussions, we always came to the same end point, which was we wouldn’t be changing anything. We’re pleased with what we’re doing and the success of our championship game and the results that it’s bringing us in the first two years of the College Football Playoff and the performance of our teams there. There’s really no feeling within our group that we’d want to change anything, even if it had been open-ended in terms of how it would have passed.
Should the Big 12 have a championship game?
JS: That’s the prerogative of the Big 12. Bob [Bowlsby] and his group will figure that out in a way that’s in the best interest of their conference and that’s who should make that decision.
Conference scheduling has remained a hot topic in the ACC since expanding to 14 teams. Where does the league stand when it comes to possible changes?
JS: Any league that’s 14 teams, you’re going to have those discussions periodically but it is not a front-burner discussion for us at this moment and wasn’t in the winter meetings, so whether we’ll talk about it in the future remains to be seen. One of the challenges we have all faced with being larger conferences is what is the best way to schedule and periodically it’s good to reflect on that question in all our sports as we live being a 14-member conference for a few years. You think you know how your decisions are going to play out but you really need to live those decisions for a while to see if it’s what you expected. Scheduling in particular falls into that category, both regular season and how you do your various sports championships.
There also has been discussion about the College Football Playoff semifinals being played on New Year's Eve. Where do you stand on that?
JS: I think we’ll be looking at it. I wouldn’t guess that it would change in our April meeting. The next couple of years it’s less of an issue because of the days of the week and how it falls, but I think it’s something that we’ll discuss and should discuss moving forward. Whether it will change or not, I don’t know. I think the concept of making New Year's Eve and New Year's Day the focal point of six games is appropriate, and you have to understand ratings can be attributable to a number of different things and ratings are not the only thing that goes into the decisions, but I think we saw this year that there was some pushback with it, and you never want to stick your head in the sand just out of stubbornness. So I think it should be discussed and evaluated as we look forward. I don’t think it’s something that has to happen immediately.