ACC Football Drawing Headlines For Wrong Reasons
By David Glenn, ACCSports.com
The most recent round of expansion in the Atlantic Coast Conference was mainly about money and football. Thus far, the cash situation has unfolded in a desirable manner. The football? Not exactly.
Each year in mid-October, when the initial Bowl Championship Series standings are released, every major conference in America longs to be in the national championship discussion. Good or bad, that's the topic that drives coverage of college football at the national, regional and sometimes local levels.
Unfortunately for the ACC, its football coaches weren't bothered much at all by questions about the BCS as they headed into the second half of their 12-game regular-season schedules. Instead, they were fielding questions about job security, painful defeats and -- in perhaps the most alarming development -- embarrassing behavior on and off the field.
Miami coach Larry Coker described the on-field fight between FIU and the Hurricanes as "disgraceful." ( Steven Murphy/SPN Photos)
No ACC team ranked in the top 10 in the initial BCS rankings, while the Big East, the league the ACC raided for three strong gridiron programs (Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech) in recent years, could boast West Virginia and Louisville in the top 10.
The top-ranked ACC representative was Clemson at No. 12, just three spots ahead of Boise State and four ahead of long-time Big East doormat Rutgers. The only other ACC programs in the top 25 were Georgia Tech at No. 19 and Boston College at No. 20.
With no undefeated teams in mid-October, the ACC essentially was out of the running for a bid in the national championship game, and thus entirely out of the discussion every time the topic popped up on radio and TV shows. In addition, the league's chance for a lucrative second BCS invitation (beyond the automatic bid that goes to the ACC champion) seemed at best shaky, with only a very strong finish by 6-1 Clemson or 5-1 Georgia Tech making it a possibility.
When ACC football did make midseason headlines, it was for the wrong reasons.
On the field, the results were ugly, even beyond the BCS rankings. Various computer programs and statistical gurus rated the ACC the best or second-best football conference in 2003, 2004 and 2005. This season, however, the ACC ranks a distant sixth.
In the Sagarin Rankings, for example, the league is behind the other five BCS founders: (in order) the Pac-10, the Big Ten, the SEC, the Big 12 and the Big East. The Mid-American Conference is 2-1 against the ACC this season, 1-24 against the other five BCS leagues. Conference USA, 2-2 versus the ACC, is 2-17 against the rest of the BCS.
Think it can't get much worse than that? Think again.
When ACC commissioner John Swofford used the words "disgust" and "disappointment" in a recent conversation about the conference's performances on the gridiron this season, he wasn't talking about wins and losses. He was speaking specifically about the chaotic, bench-clearing brawl between Miami and Florida International during an Oct. 14 game at the Orange Bowl.
Miami coach Larry Coker used another word -- "disgraceful" -- to describe the on-field fight between the Hurricanes and FIU, a cross-town rival that recently made the jump to Division I-A football. The mayhem, replayed constantly on ESPN and available on various websites, included Miami safety Anthony Reddick using his helmet as a weapon and Miami safety Brandon Meriweather repeatedly stomping FIU players with his cleats.
"'That's not college football," Coker said. "It's not what we represent at the University of Miami, and it will not be tolerated."
At Virginia Tech, meanwhile, coach Frank Beamer was answering questions after a nationally-televised 22-3 loss at Boston College about his team's behavior, which received extensive on-air criticism from respected ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Last year, the Hokies drew national criticism for several questionable incidents during their Gator Bowl win over Louisville.
"I thought it was disappointing, some of the things that happened at the very end (against BC)," Beamer said. "Emotions were high, disappointment was high. That doesn't excuse some of it. I'll stand by what I've told people for a long time. What we're going to do is work like heck to make people proud of how we play on the field and what we do off the field. I don't back away from that at all."
Two months ago, Coker and Beamer were fielding questions about the conference title and the national championship, as were several of their colleagues.
Now, when ACC football is back in the headlines, it's usually for all the wrong reasons.
Issue 1.26: October 19, 2006