While the most pressing issue the ACC faces remains unsettled, significant changes will take place this fall regarding officiating.
Wrapping up the conference’s four-day spring meetings at Amelia Island, ACC Commissioner John Swofford did not provide an update on the creation of a standalone network with TV partner ESPN, saying only that the sides “continue to have very significant discussions.”
“There’s not a whole lot we can say or will say until we reach a definitive point,” Swofford told eight reporters who met with him Thursday morning.
Swofford did not comment on a report that said ESPN would pay the ACC $45 million if a network deal is not in place by July. “There’s no deadline,” he added.
He did say the league will “aggressively” implement centralized video replay for 2016, making the ACC the first college football conference to announce plans for an NFL-style model, sans challenge flags.
This fall, Swofford said, “every stadium, every venue, every game” staffed by ACC officials will be monitored by the conference’s headquarters. Reviewable plays — fumbles, catches on the sideline, touchdowns, targeting calls — will be shown on a video feed to referees and officials at every stadium and the office in Greensboro, N.C. The league will be able to handle up to eight games simultaneously.
The cost is to be determined, but Senior Associate Commissioner for Football Operations Michael Strickland said “it will be a significant investment.”
The system was tested at the Clemson spring game, and the league was pleased with the speed and quality of the video feed. “We had our doubts going in,” Strickland said. “It didn’t take any longer than [the current system].”
Elsewhere, Swofford said the league is concerned about North Carolina bill House Bill 2, but has no plans to pull future championship games from the state.
The league issued a statement which says which says “discrimination in any form has no place in higher education and college athletics” and that it would require statements from venues that they will provide “safe and inclusive environments” at ACC events.
The ACC hosted 11 championship events in the state in 2015-16. Football, baseball, women’s basketball and swimming and diving have multi-year deals.
HB2 requires transgendered people to use public bathrooms that match their birth cerfiticates. The Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit over the bill. North Carolina has filed a counter-suit.
Swofford said the ACC will continue allow its coaches to participate in satellite camps, but maintained it’s “not in the best interest of college football. … We’ll see how this plays out. … We still think it’s a bad idea.”
A neutral medical observer will staff every ACC game, rather than the home game.
Time demands in focus: The most significant issue on the minds of college administrators nationally is how much time athletes are permitted to spend away from the playing field.
An NCAA survey, conducted in February and March through an online questionnaire and released Monday, of nearly 50,000 Division I athletes, coaches and administrators revealed a consensus on several issues and a wide gulf on others.
The athletes – who comprised 44,058 of respondents – agreed with coaches and administrators in that a minimum of eight hours overnight should be required between games, practices and other required activities. The NCAA limits 20 hours per week of countable team activity, with one scheduled day off per week.
A sticking point is whether travel to and from games should be counted toward the 20-hour-per-week limit. A majority of athletes surveyed felt travel, compliance meetings and organized team promotional activities should be counted toward the 20-hour limit. A majority of ADs and coaches disagreed.
Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga noted the difficulty of scheduling in a week where a team might plays road games at night. “If we get back at 2 a.m., we have to give them that day off,” he said. Florida State Athletics Director Stan Wilcox said ADs and coaches discussed a concept of 21 “flex days” in a given season, rather than one scheduled day off per week.
Several coaches in marquee sports wondered how time off could be legislated when players hoping for pro careers are dedicated to year-round training regardless.
“I’ll tell the guys to take a break,” Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But, if a kid wants to come train on his own and you block that off to him, guess where he’s going to go? He’s going to go to Gold’s Gym or he’s going to go somewhere else.”
The survey participants agreed the current minimum of two days off per week out-of-season should be maintained, and a no-activity period after the end of competition received strong support.
“It’s all about balancing athletics and practice and competition and travel time with your academics,” said Ezra Baeli-Wang, a North Carolina fencer and a student-athlete advisory committee representative present at the meetings. “That’s something the conference, and even at an institutional level, is striving to reconcile. It’s a system that can continue to improve.”
At the annual NCAA convention in January, the Power 5 conferences made a commitment to study the issue of time demands on student-athletes. Those conferences now have autonomy to make rules changes that affect all Division I schools. They plan to develop new proposals for the 2017 convention.