It is called the Atlantic Coast Conference for a reason. The ACC may be putting together a plan to cover both sides of the Atlantic Ocean if recent comments by the commissioner are any indication.
ACC commissioner John Swofford says playing football and basketball games in Europe is a realistic possibility in the future for the conference. Having recently established an extra level of stability with a new grant of rights package in place and no longer considered a target for future conference expansion options from rival conferences, the ACC is now in position to try and make a splash with their membership as the age of the four-team playoff dawns near.
“We need to think big,” Swofford said in an interview with CBSSports.com. “One of the things we brought up to our schools last week was we may play football, we may play basketball in Europe. Across the pond, so to speak.”
Before anyone goes nuts over the idea, keep in mind this is just an idea on the table. It is a complex idea to ship ACC football to Europe, and a costly one at that.
The first task would be to find two conference members willing to foot the bill to send their entire football program overseas for one game. The issue of money has been a concern for some ACC
members for years now, including Maryland and Florida State just to name a couple. Finding any school willing to take on the expected cost of packing up the football program for one game could be difficult, but with increased revenue sharing through new expansion and television packages, perhaps that concern could be less of a problem as it was one or two years ago. But this is not exactly like paying for a weekend trip to Dallas.
The second would be to find two programs that would be marketable to a European audience while at the same time displaying the best the conference has to offer. No ACC school has the kind of national following that would follow a program like Notre Dame across the Atlantic. Boston College could be an option to occupy one spot.
Third, what ACC school is going to be willing to give up a potential home game? Football programs make their budgets work largely off of football revenue. In a conference that has seen attendance drop throughout the conference in recent years, maximizing the attendance is a top priority. The ACC would likely help out with the funding and budgets where it can, but financial concerns based on attendance still presents an obstacle that could end up in a road block for some schools.
“The NFL is going to London, as is the NBA with some regularity,” Swofford noted. “The Olympics are so successful over there. Basketball is an international sport. Football is not, but there is a growing interest in it in Great Britain.”
The NFL has played a game in London’s historic Wembley Stadium each of the past six seasons and is set up for future game sin the venue through the 2016 season. The league is also hoping to be able to move future games beyond 2016 in to London’s Olympic Stadium. All but one NFL game in London has had an attendance over 81,000. But the NFL is playing on a completely different playing field than the ACC, which has struggled to bring fans to their own championship game in various venues throughout the ACC’s conference footprint.
“When you look at this collection of schools and markets, all our institutions are international in one degree or another.”
Playing a game in Europe would be a terrific experience for any player or coach involved. If the ACC can find a way to make it work, then by all means make it happen. Any effort to grow the sport of American football is a good one, but it has to be done in a way that does not hurt the current membership. American football is still growing in Europe, but still has a long way to. Giving Europeans a taste of collegiate football and the benefits that come from it could be a way of opening new doors for student athletes from abroad.