ACC no longer a hoops-centric conference

With all due respect to the good folks of Tallahassee, the ACC is a

football conference more than it is a basketball conference.

The

head of the Board of Trustees at Florida State and a healthy helping of

FSU fans seem to believe the Seminoles would be better off leaving the

ACC because of a perception the conference is more focused on basketball

than football. While that was probably true at an earlier time in the

ACC’s history, it simply isn’t the case anymore.

Times have changed.

It’s

just that the gridiron powers haven’t exactly lived up to their

responsibilities on the field of late, and the primary hoops powers

have. Hence, it looks like the ACC is still hoops-centric. That’s before

peeling away the onion, though.

First of all, it’s downright

silly for anyone who seeks credibility to suggest most ACC schools don’t

care enough about football. That’s just bunk. Every program in the

league has undergone some kind of stadium expansion or renovation, or

facility upgrade in the last decade. Even Duke has an indoor football

practice facility.

Some critics point to the questionable hiring

of ACC head coaches and their salaries to state their case. On the

surface, they certainly can gain a little traction there. But, the

numbers don’t entirely agree. ACC head coaches averaged $1.964 million

in salary last coming season vs. $2.016 million in the Big Ten. Neither

list includes salaries by interim coaches Everett Withers at North

Carolina and Luke Fickell at Ohio State.

ACC basketball coaches

earned an average of $1.581 million last season, and that includes Duke

coach Mike Krzyzewski’s $4.192 million salary.

But if you look at

the volume of posting on Internet fan message boards, the escalation in

interest in football recruiting versus basketball recruiting, and how

much more football gear fans are purchasing, the complexion of this

conference isn’t what it was when hoops was nestled at the top.

Basketball

attendance has gone down in the league for each of the last five years

while football attendance has increased. In addition, if you simply

queried the bases, the following would be the likely result:

The absolute football-first schools are Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech. That’s five.

Boston

College isn’t the slam-dunk football-first school FSU and Clemson are,

but its base is definitely more interested in what goes on the gridiron

than the hardwood. Virginia may have once been more hoops-oriented, but

if the fans could choose Wahoo Nation likely would go for an Orange Bowl

appearance over a spot in the Final Four. That’s seven, a majority in

the 122-team league.

N.C. State is a tricky one because its base

has supported some pretty mediocre football over the last decade and 20

years of worse hoops. That, Torry Holt, Philip Rivers and a lot of swamp

land sold by former coach Chuck Amato helped bring football in line

with basketball, a sport that has won two national championships.

But,

in 2012, the educated guess here is that Wolfpack fans would covet a

national title in football about the same as one in basketball. N.C.

State is probably the only 50-50 school in the ACC.

North

Carolina is a great basketball school, but its football interest is too

often overlooked, as most Carolina fans love Tar Heel football. Let’s

face it, it’s stadium holds many more seats than NCSU, Georgia Tech,

Boston College and Virginia, and Carolina averages many more fans than

Miami.

So yes, UNC is a basketball school, but football matters.

Wake Forest football has exploded under Jim Grobe, but if all things were equal, Demon Deacons fans would lean toward hoops.

Duke, well, that goes without saying.

Basketball

marks the ACC’s history and tugs more at the heartstrings of fans from

most of its long-time members. It has long been the nation’s standard

bearer, but its football programs can boast some impressive figures,

too.

For example, current ACC schools have 12 NCAA titles in

basketball since the ACC opened for business in 1952. But during that

same span, current programs have won 11 national championships in

football. If you look at history, ACC programs have 13 national titles

in hoops and 13 in football.

If you add Syracuse and Pittsburgh,

which have agreed to move to the ACC perhaps as soon as next summer,

the totals are 14 titles in hoops and 15 in football.

If a spot

in a BCS bowl carries similar status to reaching the Final Four,

consider this: Only four ACC schools have advanced to a Final Four since

the beginning of the BCS era, which began in the mid-1990s with the

Bowl Alliance, while seven different schools have played in BCS games.

Lastly,

current ACC schools have given the sport five Heisman Trophy winners,

and when Pitt and Syracuse join that number will grow to seven.

Not

all of these achievements happened when teams wore ACC patches on their

jerseys, but they are a part of the current make up’s history and can’t

be dismissed.

All the league needs now is for Virginia Tech to

finally break through nationally and for FSU and Miami to simply

approach their levels of the 1980s and 90s and ACC football will quickly

ascend to where many pundits figured it was heading when expansion took

place nearly a decade ago.

When that happens, stadiums will be fuller, TV contracts more lucrative, and the perception of the conference will change.

Maybe then people won’t ask which sport matters most anymore.