Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 25, 2017

John Swofford

Commissioner Press Conference

JOHN SWOFFORD: This is always an exciting time of the year, as we're in the heart of football and our fall Olympic sports seasons, and basketball is right around the corner. As with most years, there's no shortage of outstanding and consistent accomplishments surrounding the success of ACC basketball. I trust that each of you are aware of the numbers of the collective accomplishments of our programs. These certainly speak for themselves, and as always, it's good when we go into a new season with the reigning national champion.

We do have some new faces among our coaching ranks this year, as we welcome NC State's Kevin Keatts and Louisville's David Padgett. Beyond the current coaches that are leading our programs, it's always great to see so many familiar faces that have shaped, enhanced, and positively influenced Atlantic Coast Conference basketball over the years. Having these individuals remain connected to the conference I think is a part of what has long been special about our league. And when you see so many former coaches and players, as we saw last night, as we continue to see today, a number of whom have gone on for careers in the communications industry, I think it really personally accentuates the great history and traditional that we're fortunate to have in this league, because history and tradition is really about accomplishment, and first and foremost, it's about people.

I anticipate there will be a number of topics that you will be interested in specifically, including our progress in the ACC Network. As I indicated in July, there continues to be significant activity on our 15 campuses, at our office in Greensboro, and at the ESPN campuses in both Bristol and here in Charlotte. Since we were last together at the ACC Football Kickoff, many of you have covered the decision that was made, an announcement that was made in regard to the physical location of the ACC Network.

I think we ended up in an absolutely perfect place in that regard. In terms of both daily operations and the quality of the ACC Network productions, this is an ideal scenario. The Bristol studio will provide our network with access to the latest innovations and technology available, while many of the network executives with whom we interact on a daily basis will be here in Charlotte and therefore easily accessible to our office and our personnel in Greensboro.

From our school's perspective and in looking at our footprint, the dual locations will provide everyone with convenient access, particularly our coaches and being able to go to both Bristol and to Charlotte. So the dual location really makes the most sense for the partnership and for our league.

In terms of distribution, which as you know is critical as we move forward, as was announced by Disney and ESPN earlier this month, the ACC Network was included in the agreement between Disney and Altice USA and is an excellent result for the beginning of the distribution negotiations. Altice USA is the fourth largest cable system in the country and will deliver the ACC Network to approximately 4.3 million subscribers across 21 states, and significantly, New York City. This news combined with the continued efforts by everyone working towards a successful launch in 2019 translates to terrific progress at this point in time. We're highly pleased with the current status of where we are from a network standpoint, and we continue to be right on schedule, if not slightly ahead of schedule.

For the 2017-18 season, we continue to have excellent coverage of ACC basketball. This includes our partnership with ESPN, the ACC syndicated networks through Raycom sports, the Fox regional networks, CBS, as well as ACC Network Extra for digital live events, and the ACCDN for supplemental coverage of all things ACC. We value our relationship with each of these outstanding partners in bringing our basketball to a multitude of ACC fans nationally.

Now, last year at this time, we were in the thick of launching a men's basketball officiating alliance in conjunction with the Big East, the Atlanta 10, and the colonial Athletic Conferences. Following what we felt was an extremely successful season of collaboration with those conferences and with increased efficiencies because of that collaboration, we recently announced the expansion of this alliance, so this season we will include the Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast Conference, and the Patriot League, in addition to the Big East, A-10 and Colonial.

Bryan Kersey and John Cahill of the Big East Conference did an outstanding job leading the effort in year one, and we look forward to building on this success as we move forward.

Another first for us last year was taking our tournament to New York City. The New York Life ACC tournament was a success from our vantage point by all measures, from the competition on the court to our hosts at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the exceptional experience for our teams and fans throughout the city.

The impact of being in the media capital of the world was significant, and again, there were no shortage of league fans, as we set a record for the largest attendance at a college basketball event at Barclays Center for our semifinal games on Friday night.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that we're looking forward to being back at Barclays Center in New York in March of 2018, when we conclude the ACC season at that point.

After three years as our title sponsor for the event, New York Life announced yesterday that it will continue to support the ACC basketball tournament as its title sponsor through at least 2019. That's another partnership that we greatly appreciate, and we look forward to that continued relationship.

Following this year, the ACC tournament will return to Charlotte for the 13th time, at the Spectrum Center, which is obviously nearby, hosting the 2019 event. We have some of our colleagues here with us today from the Hornets and the Spectrum Center and look forward to working with them when our event returns to the state of North Carolina. We're also looking forward to returning to the Greensboro Coliseum in 2020. Greensboro is the home of the ACC, as you well know, and has hosted the event 25 times, which is more than any other city.

Whether it's Tampa, Greensboro, New York, Washington, Atlanta or Charlotte, we're fortunate to have so many outstanding venues and cities and venues that are run with such great efficiency that are available to us within our footprint, and we feel like our rotation of our tournament has been a very positive thing league wide. Discussions are underway for sites beyond the 2020 tournament. We look forward to building on the significant successes we've seen in moving the event throughout our footprint. There's no set timetable as to when we will have final locations to announce, but the process is in gear, and we'll keep you posted as we work toward a decision on adding to the current rotation.

Now, although I'm not in position to say much about the on going federal and NCAA investigations, I do want to reiterate what I've said earlier. First, the charges filed by the Federal Government are truly disturbing to me, to our schools, and all those connected to college athletics that are dedicated to following the rules. There's still much to learn, but if found to be true, the individuals involved need to be held accountable. This is a serious situation where college athletics shouldn't be. We need to find what good can come from this being brought to light with facts, not rumors.

Yes, obviously there are systemic issues that need to be addressed, including in my mind one and done and more liberal agent rules. But individual accountability cannot be ignored. So much ultimately comes down to individuals' integrity and individuals' commitment to playing by the rules, and there is no lack of understanding about what the rules are, and there's certainly no lack of resources and commitment on campuses across the country in educating those involved as to what those rules are.

Today's world is not yesterday's world. We need to recognize that in finding solutions to improving the system. But integrity is timeless. It was critical yesterday, it's critical today, it'll be critical in the future. And whatever the system is, integrity is critical to its success.

We have a system in today's basketball world in our country, which is different than the basketball systems internationally, but the system we have today in our country, oddly enough, I compare to a sandwich. The bottom slice of the bread that's there first and is the first part of the experience of so many young people, when they're at an age to play high school basketball, and particularly with the more elite players, the AAU travel teams, which often are 501(c)3s funded by donations, the shoe companies, and others, for gear, for travel expenses, for coaches' salaries, and at that point, that's all legal and within the rules, and quite frankly, provides some incredible experiences playing the game and traveling and in some instances really quality coaching that mean a great deal to a lot of young people and expand their lives tremendously.

And I think we all know that high school basketball, is important as it continues to be the scholastic part of recruiting in today's world, is not what it was in yesterday's world. So that's the bottom slice of the family, and it's an very important slice.

And then you come to the guts of the sandwich, so to speak, and that's where our great game of college basketball is. That's where the collegiate model is, and that's where our NCAA rules apply. A lot of our rules didn't apply at the AAU level. So you're going from one system to our system, and all of a sudden some of the things that were done before these young guys get into our system, what was being done then is not appropriate in our system.

So then they're in our system for a year or four or five, and they go on to the top slice of the bread, of the sandwich, which is pro basketball, the NBA, the international leagues, the pay for play, the endorsements, the great money opportunities, and their problems are not necessarily our problems. Our problems are not necessarily their problems. Same with the first slice with AAU.

So whether you call it three buckets, a sandwich, whatever you want to call it, I think college basketball, it's in the middle of a broader spectrum in a very unique way, unlike any other sport, and consequently, it may need unique solutions. And a one size fits all, as in one size fits all sports, every rule fits every sport, that may not work if we're going to try to fix this.

We have to work with those that make up the bottom slice of the sandwich and those that make up the top slice of the sandwich to improve the system and make it work for the young people involved in all three tears of what make up that sandwich, to make it work for the sport of basketball in our country.

We're further unique because intercollegiate sports, therefore obviously college basketball, what we have in the States doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, where you're tying education to really high-level competition in sports. It's not just basketball. It doesn't exist anywhere else. So there are basketball models internationally, and I think this is one reason you're seeing more and more international players come into the NBA and be very, very successful. The systems are very different outside of the States, and I'm not suggesting duplicating those, but I think we should learn something from them, because I believe so strongly in the collegiate model.

But for some kids, the collegiate model might not should be a part of this process, where they're going from high school and AAU to making a living playing professionally. And I think that's okay.

We have an opportunity, I think, for college basketball and really the entire system, and I think that's how we have to look at it, an entire system, from high school and AAU to college ball to the NBA. We've got an opportunity here because of a problem to try and fix something, and I don't think we can afford to miss that opportunity.

Now, are the actions alleged by the federal charges, are they rampant? I don't know. I hope not, and I think not. But this is going to have to play itself out before we really know. I do believe a lot of people, most people in this profession are doing things the right way. So while I can't say that I know, every indication I'm getting from a lot of conversations I've had, eyeball to eyeball with people that should know, is that it's probably not rampant. But obviously it's a problem.

Time will tell us.

The NCAA, as you know, has formed a commission, and there's no question it's comprised of highly-respected individuals, including a number that have ties to the ACC, Notre Dame president John Jenkins, Georgia Tech president Bud Peterson, and former Duke standout Grant Hill. And the chair is Condoleezza Rice, whom we all know, who just finished, just last year, her service on the College Football Playoff committee. In fact, Condi was our conference point person through the 2016 season for the playoff committee.

You know, it's good to have someone who's probably capable of running the free world to head this commission.

I hope this commission will hear from those on the front lines, and I'm very confident that they will, in considering what truly needs to be done and can be done to improve the current system. That's a critical point of this commission's work, I think, is to sit down with some key people that experience what I don't experience, what members of this commission, as high-quality as they are as leaders and individuals, don't experience, so that we all figure out exactly what's going on here and why and try to find the best path to improve it.

It seems to me that it can't be improved without a better connection among the three tiers of that sandwich that I described. If there's a problem that's affecting college basketball as it being alleged, we can't fix that unilaterally by ourselves. We need some help from the shoe companies. We need some help in figuring out the whole agent situation. We need some help from the NBA. That's the kind of connectedness that we need, in my humble opinion, to get this right, and we've got something really special in this country in college basketball. It's certainly been special to the Atlantic Coast Conference, to find solutions to it.

During our ACC fall meetings last week, I discussed with our schools about everything that you just heard, and we discussed the formation of an ACC task force that will include the following athletics directors. Didn't want to get it too big, and we wanted people who we felt would most understand the nuances of these issues. Craig Littlepage will chair it. I know Carla Williams is coming in as the new athletic director at the University of Virginia, and we welcome her. Page has been good enough to be willing to chair this group for us. Obviously he played and coached before becoming an administrator, highly respected individual who knows the game and knows the landscape. Martin Jarmond, the AD at Boston College, played college basketball at the Division I level at UNC Wilmington; Stan Wilcox, the Florida State athletic director, played college basketball at Notre Dame; Kevin White will be on that committee as a member of the NCAA men's basketball committee; and Paul Brazeau will join us from my staff, who's a member of the men's basketball oversight committee at the NCAA level and has a world of experience in college coaching and administrative at the NBA, which is where he was when I hired him.

Our goal will be to see if we can offer solutions to the NCAA commission, or at least ideas for them to consider and process that may prove helpful to them as it completes its work. We're visiting with a number of our own coaches one to one for input, and simply put, our league needs to do our part in finding solutions to this and offering ideas that can lead us to solutions. And I'm confident with the leadership of that task force, we will hopefully be able to do that.

As we go forward, this all includes from our standpoint a continued dialogue with NBA commissioner and Duke alum Adam Silver. I was pleased to see his comments surrounding the one and done rule recently and his statement that it's not working for the college game. I think Adam does have a respect for the big picture here. I think he does have a respect for college basketball and what it has meant to the NBA.

I liked his plan to discuss with two more players and put them in leadership roles that are straight out of our league that we have direct relationships with. He's asking Michael Jordan to head up some of these discussions with the ownership group, and he's asking Chris Paul to do the same with the Players' Union. Those are simply another opportunity for our league to play a significant role. They will be behind the scenes, and that's all well and good. But have a significant role in getting to solutions and a better system.

With all that said and before I open it up for questions. I want to reiterate that it continues to be my belief, and I think that of many, many others, the more conversations I've had, that one of the best things about college athletics and college basketball is its people, from our players to the coaches to the leadership at our schools and the passionate fan bases that extend really worldwide in our case, there are a lot of great people in not only this conference but in college athletics as a whole, and I think we have to be cautious not to allow the actions of some and hopefully a relative few to undermine the many that have dedicated their careers to operating and conducting themselves with integrity and within the rules.

So let me stop at that and see if you have any questions.

Q. You spoke about the fall meetings last week. As you're well aware, there have been several protests against police brutality that have been repackaged as National Anthem protests or American flag protests. Has the league as a whole discussed any plan of action as we get ready to tip off the college basketball season?
JOHN SWOFFORD: We've discussed the situation but will not be taking league action in regard to that. Our schools feel that that's a situation that belongs on their campus with their student-athletes, and our schools will address that institutionally. We don't have any intention of changing the protocol of how we do the National Anthem in any of our sports right now.

Q. When you talk about all the different groups you want to work with to try to come up with solutions to this issue, you're talking about agents, shoe companies, the NBA, these are all groups that have decided that players have a market value, and it occurs to me that you guys are the only ones who have decided that there's a fixed cap on that market value. How is it possible or why would you have confidence that you could find a solution without changing the whole framework of college athletics when you guys are the outlier?
JOHN SWOFFORD: Well, we're the outlier because we're the educational portion of this or the part of it that's tied to the collegiate model and to education. You know, I don't know where it'll end up. I don't know how much can be changed. You know, I'm an optimist by nature. But the point I'm really trying to make is that I don't think we have a chance to improve this without some connectedness between these groups, and quite frankly, just about any degree of connectedness among these groups would be better than where we are right now.

We haven't, for whatever reason, really sat down and looked at this, and I think that what has happened with this federal investigation and charges takes things to a whole 'nother level for some AAU people, for some agents, certainly for intercollegiate athletics. And I think we have leadership at the NBA that has -- while these things may not really be their problem except maybe indirectly, I would hope that there's a sense of concern about the system, a sense of concern about the game in our country, and I would hope they would want to play a significant role in helping address the problems. So I guess that's where your question was really about where does my confidence come from. I guess that's how I would describe where the confidence comes from.

Q. We've heard a lot of commissioners come up with some ideas and suggestions in recent weeks; what are your ideas, whether it's in the area of one and done or AAU camps or agents or player likenesses? What steps, what fixes would you like to see happen to clean up college basketball, and also obviously with Louisville involved in yet a third scandal in recent years, do you or some of your members regret inviting Louisville into the conference?
JOHN SWOFFORD: I'll take the last one first: No. It was the right decision at the time. Not pleased with recent turn of events, as we wouldn't be, whether a member were in the league from 1953. Doesn't matter when they come in. But it was the right decision at the time and I think can be the right decision over the long-term.

The solutions, I'm purposely putting out thoughts at this level. I don't have specific solutions to offer today. We'll be doing that through our task force within the league. I've got some ideas in terms of -- at least what I think are ideas before further discussions with people that -- I mentioned people on the front lines. There's a lot for me to learn in this, and I think the same would be true of any commissioner, any athletic director. If you're not in the middle of this, you may not really know enough to offer. So that educational part of this is very important, as we sit down and talk to coaches and talk with those that have really been directly involved with it as to what their thoughts are and are affected by it day in and day out.

You know, I think I've got a pretty good sense of the global sense of it, and I think getting rid of one and done is better than having it. I think taking a look at the baseball model is worth doing. I can't tell you I think that's a solution, but signing out of high school or going to college for three years, you know, that's something I think to look at. Baseball has more liberal agent rules.

First question is, well, okay, is that working, and if it is, would it work with basketball. That would be one of them.

So those are some of my initial thoughts. But Dan had some earlier questions, some very good points that I tried to make in my comments. You've got these rules that -- you have rules that don't apply, and then they do apply, and then they don't apply, and we're in the middle of that. And our mission is very different in an educational setting. And I don't think we're going to change that mission, and I wouldn't recommend that we change that mission.

But it's like we've talked about and I've talked about in terms of the whole autonomy approach in trying to reorganize the NCAA to a point where it can be more effective, that we've got to modernize some things. I'm not for throwing out the collegiate model by any stretch of the imagination, but I am for modernizing it to live in a way -- to live in today's world in a way that makes sense.

Q. Where does the blame or the responsibility lie in this investigation and in cleaning it all up? Is it the individuals who have been blamed? Is it the schools? Is it the conference? Is everybody at fault?
JOHN SWOFFORD: I suspect there's plenty of blame to go around. I guess maybe it matters to some people where the blame is. I'm more interested in how do we fix it. It's like I said earlier, systemically there are problems there. It can be better, I think, I hope. Maybe we've waited too long to really address that. Maybe we haven't understood some of the things that were going on or acknowledged them, so maybe we've been slow to first base, so to speak. But we need to find out, and we need to make up for lost time, if that's the case. And then you -- as I said earlier, human nature being what it is, and there's probably greater -- not probably, there's greater pressure to win than there's ever been, college athletics, pro athletics, pro sports, everybody has entirely lost patience with winning and the time it takes to win and build a program, and particularly when a program is going about things in the right way from an integrity and rules standpoint and an academic standpoint, and yet the patience still isn't there. I don't have a solution for that. That's societal.

You know, it's not that hard to sort of look at things and say, well, this is a problem, this is a problem, this is a problem, this is a problem. Any of us can do that. The challenge is in, all right, what do we do about this that makes a difference, that makes a positive difference, and hopefully we'll have some success with that, and hopefully this commission will have some success with it.

Q. Jim Boeheim basically implied there was a double standard in the way Syracuse and North Carolina were treated by the NCAA, applied differently, were his words. Without asking you to pass judgment or assess either NCAA decision, do you feel like two league schools received the same treatment, same equitable treatment from the NCAA?
JOHN SWOFFORD: That's hard for me to judge. The NCAA structure is such that I've always found it difficult to compare or to predict. People are always asking me, what do you think is going to happen, and my response is -- and it's an honest one, is always, you know, I don't really know because you've got different people on the committee, you've got different -- even in the same time frame, it's not always going in front of the same group of people, it's going in front of different groups of people.

You know, I think what they have done is do the best that they can within the parameters of the bylaws. So it's really hard to really judge that in terms of whether they're consistent or not. I think you have to get in the weeds of the charges that are being considered when you do that.

Q. Do you envision your conference task force focusing just internally, or would you like them to call Sonny Vaccaro, George Raveling, folks such as that who have experience in the grass-roots basketball and how the system evolved and talk to them and get their insight?
JOHN SWOFFORD: There are no parameters on our task force. I think the mentality is that you start internally with our own connections and our own coaches and our own experiences, but there's no reason not to -- there will be some relationships on our task force where it would be very easy to pick up the phone and call whomever it might be. You named a few, I named a few, and that's a good thing. That's a good thing.

You know, I -- this league should care deeply about the situation in front of us in college basketball because I think it's fair to say this league has been one of the most prominent ones in college basketball for a long, long, long time, and consequently shame on us if we're not playing a role in finding solutions to problems in the game.

Q. Over the last couple weeks Louisville let go of its basketball coach, let go of its athletic director. In your opinion as a guy who makes tough calls, was that the right move for the university to move forward and move past this?
JOHN SWOFFORD: I can't say it's the right or wrong move. I will say they obviously are addressing the problems at hand very aggressively. They know a lot more than I know, and there's only so much information that Louisville can share with me. That's limited, but they have certainly been aggressive in addressing those situations.

Q. Over the last two, three years, we've seen FBI and NCAA investigations that involved North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse, Hall of Fame coaches, national titles, multiple Final Fours. How are we not to believe that these problems aren't rampant in this sport if Hall-of-Famers with national titles are the ones with their programs on probation over the last two, three years?
JOHN SWOFFORD: Well, you know, I don't think you jump to that conclusion that it's rampant based on what was just said. I think obviously there have been issues there that needed to be addressed by those institutions and by the NCAA, and I think they have been addressed. I think anybody that's been around me for any length of time understands that what I detest the most in this chair is when one of our schools has any type of significant NCAA problem or not. We've prided ourselves for years and years in this league at having the fewest of those of any of our colleague conferences, and that's a title that we want to keep. It's not what we want, and if I have anything to do with it, it's not what we're going to get used to having. I talked about history and tradition before; that's a great tradition and a great part of our history. We've had our problems over the years, but there haven't been a lot of them relatively speaking, and we don't want a lot of them. And so a continued reemphasis on a commitment to compliance and the integrity of our programs, I mean, that hasn't -- that's never stopped, and -- you get back a little bit to most of these situations, and universities go through tough times in terms of the damage done to the university name and the university -- I mean, it's kind of like as a person. The most precious thing you have in a lot of ways is your good name and your reputation. Same with universities.

I've said many, many times, any time we have a new chancellor or new president come in the league, I sit down and talk with them, and I say, look, athletics can be a beautiful thing and a great thing for your university if it's done right, and when it's not, it can be very ugly, and it can be very damaging. That's just a fact of life.

But what I'm getting to is the vast majority of the time when a university is damaged because of NCAA problems, it's a very few number of people that have caused it. It's not the University of or -- it's not the whole university. It's, generally speaking, a relative few. And you have to get to the bottom of why did it happen and how do you correct it. And that's what I want to see ultimately as commissioner, but the best way to do that is to never be there in the first place, and that's really what I want, and that's what any of my colleagues would want, as well.

Q. I wanted to ask about future tournament venues. I don't know that attendance has ever been more than it was in 2001 in the Georgia Dome. What is the future of the tournament going forward south of Charlotte, and what tournament venues in particular would you look at?
JOHN SWOFFORD: I don't think we'll be going back to any domes. It's a different world -- first time we were in the dome in Atlanta it was unbelievable from an attendance standpoint. Incredible, actually, broke every conference tournament record ever and hasn't been touched since, including when we went back there the second time in the dome, and some people that didn't like the experience in the dome the first time decided not to go back.

And I think our world has changed since then, too. You have to live in the world that you're currently living in, and that worked very well at that point in time. We don't think it would again. I think you'll see us staying in traditional-sized arenas.

You mentioned south of Charlotte, I think. I think Atlanta is a possibility. I wouldn't rule out Florida at this point. But we'll have to see. We've got some work to do on that, and obviously our experiences in Washington and New York were terrific.

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Rev #2 by #166 at 2017-10-25 19:15:00 GMT

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