Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Whitehurst wins statewide honor

Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is the winner of the 2003 Banks McFadden Award, given annually to the best college football player in South Carolina. Congratulations, Charlie.

AIMING FOR THE BIG TIME: Several Clemson players, including Khaleed Vaughn, are taking part in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Good luck, guys.

IT'S A DATE: Clemson has announced the so-called "special dates" for the 2004 football season. Homecoming will be Oct. 16 against Utah State.

MOURNING ABOUT EXPANSION: Hampton Roads Daily Press columnist David Teel heaps scorn on the ACC for expanding to 11 (and soon 12) teams, claiming that the financial rewards (more than $1 million extra for each school if you figure in the income from a football championship game, which Teel fails to include in his analysis) don't outweigh the league's loss of credibility and "the demise of round-robin basketball."

Boo frickin hoo.

First of all, this expansion, even though it was poorly handled at times, was undertaken to make the ACC a much more serious football conference. There's little doubt that it will be a success. Teel is correct that money is what's driving this, but what's wrong with that? Yes, big-time athletic programs do have budgets that hover around $40 million, but they also burn through that cash pretty quickly. Very few carry big surpluses. And I would imagine that an extra $1 million would come in handy at a school like Wake Forest.

Furthermore, I notice that an increase in bowl-game income doesn't seem to figure into Teel's math. If the ACC lands two or more teams in the BCS, that would mean an extra payout to each of the schools in the league that could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And nowhere does Teel acknowledge that future television/bowl deals could be even more lucrative.

Secondly, I cannot imagine any scenario under which ACC basketball will suffer. It's the ACC. It's a known commodity around the country, and it will always be a huge draw. Adding a major TV market like Boston is not going to hurt the league, either.

Sure, there will be some scheduling problems. As Teel points out, N.C. State and Duke won't play twice each year in basketball, and that is a bit of a loss. But depending on the circumstances of a particular season, the potential exists for that one game to be huge. (Of course, in other seasons, the potential also exists for that one game to inspire fans to say "who cares"?)

I personally don't know why they can't make the basketball schedule round-robin with 12 teams. Does Duke really need to play the UNC-Wilmingtons or Richmonds of the world every year? Get rid of most of those crap tune-up games and jump right into league play. For example, look at Clemson's 2003-04 basketball schedule. The Tigers are playing 27 regular-season games. With a round-robin format in a 12-team league, Clemson would have 22 ACC games, leaving five or more slots for non-conference games. That's plenty, if you ask me.

I understand the source of these fears. Change always makes people leery, and I'm sure there were columnists in the 1950s bemoaning the break-up of the old Southern Conference. But I am confident that once the games are actually played, these things will be quickly forgotten.

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