ACC looks to get swagger back in 2007

ACC looks to get swagger back in 2007

ACC looks to get swagger back in 2007
July 22, 2007

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) -Calais Campbell and Miami have something to prove. So does the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A year after the super-sized league was ridiculed as weak when traditional powers Miami and Florida State struggled, those teams - and the ACC as a whole - are out this season to restore their reputations.

``You come here to win games. You come here to be a part of something great,'' Campbell said Sunday during the first day of the league's three-day media event.

``When people count us out and say that we're not a part of something like that, it hurts. It's like saying we're not good enough to do it,'' he added. ``Right now, it's motivation for us. ... We've got a chip on our shoulder.''

So does the entire league.

The ACC is hoping to return to prominence after a trying season in which two of its highest-profile programs - the Seminoles and Hurricanes - combined to lose 12 games. Miami took part in one of the lowlights of the season when it engaged Florida International in a vicious on-field brawl.

Three coaches were fired, and no team placed higher in the final rankings than No. 18 Wake Forest - a most unlikely conference champion after it was the preseason pick to finish last in its division.

``A lot of it is just the attitude,'' Florida State's Andre Fluellen said. ``When I first got there, we expected to win every game. Now, it's like, 'Well, we might win this game, squeak by this game.' It shouldn't be like that. We should be expected and looking like we're going to win every game, no matter what.''

That kind of swagger largely was missing a year ago in Tallahassee and Coral Gables. Both teams finished 7-6, far from their normal perches in the Top 25, and those struggles led many observers to the conclusion that when Miami and Florida State are down, so is the rest of the ACC.

Winning, and winning big, ``is what they're supposed to do. They're the names people think about when they think of the ACC,'' Georgia Tech's Tashard Choice said.

Said Campbell: ``When it's not like that, then the ACC must not be that good, because the powerhouses aren't really performing.''

Others suggest it's a result of the rest of the league finally catching up to the Hurricanes and Seminoles.

``The ACC is a really good conference, but it's beginning to level off,'' Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson said. ``The talent at one school isn't necessarily that much better than another school.''

Miami has yet to match its first season in the expanded ACC when it finished No. 11 in 2004. Florida State hasn't had a top-10 finish since wrapping up 2000 at No. 5 after losing in its most recent appearance in the national championship game.

It has been a steady decline ever since Fluellen's redshirt season in 2003, when the Seminoles finished 11th. They slipped to No. 15 in 2004, fell to No. 23 the following season and tumbled from the rankings last year.

``I looked at Florida State as being in the hunt for the national championship every year,'' Fluellen said. ``My first year, we were kind of in the hunt, and every year after that, we went down a little bit. So we're trying to get this thing back up to where we're looking for the national championship every year.''

The only ACC team to finish in the top 10 in the post-expansion era is Virginia Tech, which accomplished it in 2004 and 2005. The Hokies, the popular pick by most preseason magazines as the ACC's team to beat, insist they don't feel any pressure to save the conference's face.

``It's not that much added pressure on us because we come in every year wanting to be ACC champions and then take that to the national championship,'' defensive tackle Carlton Powell said. ``It's the same amount of pressure we had before, the same amount of pressure every year.''

Perhaps the most effective way for the ACC to restore its reputation is to halt its Bowl Championship Series futility.

Since the BCS began in 1998, league teams are 1-8 in the major bowl games - easily the worst record of any conference with an automatic berth - and the ACC has lost seven straight in BCS.

``Winning. And then winning more games, winning the BCS games or winning bowl games,'' Choice said. ``That's the only way.''

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Re: ACC looks to get swagger back in 2007

Virginia Tech picked to win ACC title
July 23, 2007

Associated Press

PINEHURST, N.C. -- After a strong run that fell a little short of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, Virginia Tech looks ready to get back there once again.

The Hokies were the clear preseason favorite to win the ACC title in voting by media members at the league's annual preseason media days, while Florida State was picked to bounce back from a shaky season and win the league's Atlantic Division title.

In voting results released Monday, the Hokies were the runaway choice to win the Coastal Division and earned 69 of 83 possible votes to win the league championship game -- even if coach Frank Beamer wasn't putting too much stock in it.

"I don't know where Wake Forest was picked last year, but I know where they finished up," he said of the Demon Deacons' surprise run to the ACC title last year. "All this tells us is we better get to work and be as good a football team as you people think we can be."

The Hokies certainly have plenty to look forward to coming off a 10-3 season. They finished a game behind Georgia Tech in the division race and beat Wake Forest 27-6 on the road in November.

Virginia Tech returns eight starters on offense and eight more from a defense that ranked first nationally last year by allowing 219.5 yards per game.

The Seminoles, coming off a 7-6 season, earned 37 votes to lead the Atlantic Division. The division winners will meet in the league's third annual title game, scheduled for Dec. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The division-favorite pick was a surprise to longtime coach Bobby Bowden, whose Seminoles won the first league championship game in 2005.

"Usually on these things you base it on what happened last year," he said. "We were not very successful last year."

In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech was picked second with four first-place votes, followed by Miami, Virginia, North Carolina and Duke.

In the Atlantic, Boston College was second with 25 first-place votes, followed by Clemson, Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina State.

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VICK'S TROUBLES: While most of the focus was on this year's team, Beamer also found himself answering questions about one of his most famous former players: Michael Vick.

The former Hokies quarterback was recently indicted on federal charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation in which losing dogs either died in the pit or sometimes were executed. Beamer said he would wait for the case to be resolved before saying much on Vick's troubles.

"I know Michael Vick is a very caring, very concerned and very good person," Beamer said. "I'm going to wait until this is all said and done to change any of my thoughts or to make any other observations, really. I know how I feel about Michael."

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DEACS' BLING: The crowd of reporters around Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe's table was a little bigger than usual Monday. But that's what happens when you take a small program with only a handful of bowl appearances to the league title.

Grobe wore a black Wake Forest shirt with "ACC Champions" embroidered in gold on the left sleeve. Yet he wasn't wearing an ACC championship ring.

"Actually I'm not a big jewelry guy, so I haven't worn the ring anyway," Grobe said with a smile.

When told some of his players said they planned not to wear the ring in order to focus on this year, Grobe smiled.

"If you're spending all your time looking at your ring, you're probably not watching your Boston College film," he said.

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TAR HEEL SCHEDULING: New North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he hopes to begin work on the Tar Heels' future schedules in hopes to regularly having seven home games and adding road trips to key recruiting areas.

Davis said the program has sent letters inquiring about future games with several schools, including Penn State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.

"I think players like playing in big games like that," Davis said. "We're reaching out and trying to find when they might potentially have openings and when those openings might become available."

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WILLFUL TERPS: The team statistics certainly didn't seem all that favorable for Maryland last season, from ranking near the middle of the pack in offensive categories to ranking 10th in the 12-team league in total and scoring defense.

Yet the Terps would have reached the league title game had they beaten Wake Forest at home in the final game of the regular season.

The reason? Coach Ralph Friedgen figures last year's group figured out how to play its best at the most critical moments -- a trait he hopes follows Maryland into this year.

"I think there comes a point in time at every game where it's a matter of wills as to who's going to win the game," he said. "I definitely see it as a positive. If you won games on stats, we'd keep score that way."

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Re: ACC looks to get swagger back in 2007

ACC does background checks on officials
July 24, 2007

Associated Press

PINEHURST, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference has performed background checks for the past year on game officials in three sports in an effort to prevent gambling scandals like the one faced by the NBA.

During an annual wide-ranging news conference Tuesday, conference commissioner John Swofford also said the league would decide in December where to host its football championship games in 2008-10 and discussed how the ACC is preparing for another two-year term coordinating Bowl Championship Series operations beginning in January.

The dominant issue was the background checks, which Swofford said were approved by university presidents two years ago and began last year on officials in football and men's and women's basketball.

"It's not a catchall, end-all by any means, but it does show a proactive way of looking at this and hopefully raising red flags if there are any to be raised," Swofford said.

About 75 of the roughly 225 officials in those sports will be investigated each year, and every official's background will be checked once in a four-year period, said Shane Lyons, the league's associate commissioner for compliance.

Swofford said the ACC and Big Ten are the only conferences to implement the checks, which cost $135 apiece.

The ACC-ordered probes, performed by an independent agency, include an investigation into any ties to gambling on sports, officials' credit histories and criminal and driving records at the local, state and federal levels. The NCAA performs similar checks on officials working its basketball tournaments and bowl games, he said.

None of the officials investigated showed any warning signs that might have led to a removal from officiating games, Lyons said.

"There wasn't anything that we saw that concerned us, that stimulated our belief that we should take this route," Swofford said. "But this whole issue of gambling is so prevalent in our society. ... We just simply want to do everything we can proactively to have that kind of integrity in our officials as well as our student-athletes."

He said the ACC wants to avoid the gambling scandal faced by the NBA.

Former referee Tim Donaghy is under federal investigation for allegedly betting on games he officiated. Authorities are examining whether Donaghy made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered thousands of dollars over the past two seasons.

The ACC "tried to educate (athletes) to stay away from any type of gambling activities," Lyons said. "With that, we talked about the officials as the next step to protect the integrity of the game."

As for the league's second turn in charge of the BCS, television contracts and the format to decide a national champion are the key issues, Swofford said.

Fox is entering the second year of a four-year deal for the broadcast rights to the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls until 2010, and the national title game until 2009. The Rose Bowl has its own TV deal with ABC, a contract that runs through 2014.

"I think it's become very obvious that we're not going to be to the point of having a full-blown playoff after the current BCS ends," said Swofford, who coordinated the BCS in 2000 and 2001. "I think what we're looking at is some form of a plus-one or the same format that we have at this point in time."

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