With Orange Bowl Secured, ACC Must Win
By Stuart Barefoot
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The ACC did the right thing in signing a 12-year agreement with the Orange Bowl, but now the conference's teams must take care of business on the field.
The 12-year deal between the ACC and the Orange Bowl is one of the best things that could have happened to the ACC. It has been a widely shared opinion among fans and analysts that the ACC has been on the decline for a few years now, only reemphasizing its perception as “mostly a basketball conference.” By no means is the ACC a bad conference, but it has had a shadow cast on it by the SEC and Big 12. In any case, it appears that regardless of how strong or weak the conference is, it will be sending a team to a major bowl every year for at least the next 12 years.
The way this works is, as they have since 2006, the ACC champion will play in the Orange Bowl. That is unless the Orange Bowl is not a “playoff bowl” that year and the ACC champion makes the playoffs. In that case, the ACC champ will play in one of the four host bowls, and another ACC team will play in the Orange Bowl, presumably the second place guys. The Bowl announced that they plan to host four semifinal games during the 12-year agreement. While this is exciting for the ACC, it still isn’t an absolute guarantee. If the ACC champ isn’t chosen by the selection committee to be in the semifinals during one of the years that the Orange Bowl is a host bowl, they will then play in one of the other bowls designated by the BCS. So, worst case scenario, there is an ACC team in of the top six bowls every year, with the possibility for more.
Financially it makes sense too. The ACC will be able to sell the TV rights to the Orange Bowl, and keep somewhere around 50 percent of the revenue it will generate. The fact that the game will be played on New Year’s Day, which traditionally garners high ratings, doesn’t hurt either. As a reference point to how much money this could generate for the conference, the Triangle Business Journal reported that Clemson made $22.3 million for their participation in the game last year. That money is, of course, shared among the conference members.
It also will put minds at ease in regards to Florida State possibly leaving the conference. Rumors about the Seminoles jumping ship were fairly common a few weeks ago. But now with this lucrative deal in place, they will likely stay. According to SB Nation’s Jason Kirk, they’d be “crazy” to leave. “If the Noles were to jump to the Big 12 for a few million more per year they'd no longer be the new system's de facto Orange Bowl favorite every year,” he writes. What Kirk is arguing, is that if they were to go to the Big 12, they’d be, at best, the third best team over there. In the ACC, however, they are top dog each season, and the chances of them going to the Orange Bowl, if not a national semifinal bowl, every year is looking pretty good right now.
While this news has ACC fans optimistic about the future standing of their favorite conference, it has drawn many criticisms as well. The biggest opponents argue that it bears little to no difference from the exclusionary system that was the BCS. Matt Hinton from CBS Sports argues that as the ACC declines, its ties with the Orange Bowl will cascade the once historic, meaningful bowl game into utter irrelevance. Clemson was routed 70-33 by West Virginia last year, and the ACC team in the bowl has lost nine out of its last 10 Orange Bowl games, with the last victory being a 20-7 Virginia Tech win in 2009 against Cincinnati.
While the arguments against this new negotiation are clear, the ACC did what it had to do. ACC commissioner JohnSwofford could not sit idly by while the other major conferences were proactive. The Big Ten, Pac-12, and ESPN extended their deal with the Rose Bowl weeks earlier, and the SEC and Big 12 reached a deal with the brand new Champions Bowl. The ACC had to follow suit, or fall behind.
Now that Sowfford has taken care of the business end, it’s up for the 12 (soon to be 14) teams in the ACC to take care of things on the field. Talented teams like Clemson cannot lose by 43 points in a major bowl game. UNC can’t bend the rules, and FSU and Miami need to return to prominence, or else this deal will be all for naught.