The now perspective from BC and the ACC on BC joining the ACC:
The Hartford Courant
BC's Success From Outside
Northern Intruder Now An ACC Power
March 16, 2006
By ALAN GREENBERG, Courant Staff Writer
"Having flown home Sunday night from Greensboro, N.C., after losing a 78-76 heartbreaker to Duke in the ACC tournament championship game, Al Skinner's Boston College team plays its first-round NCAA Tournament game a day earlier - today - and farther from home than it expected, or thought fair.
Unlike the other teams in the Salt Lake City sub-regional - Nevada, Montana and today's opponent, Pacific - No. 4 seed BC flew to Utah Monday to get acclimated to the two-hour time change and this distant, alien land.
Of course, that's nothing compared to what the Eagles faced all season, their first as members of the ACC. Entry and exit fees paid, lawsuits grudgingly settled, BC administrators accepted the ACC's invitation to bolt the Big East for a world of southern accents and a truckload of TV money, turning some former Big East friends into enemies. Meanwhile, their new southern ACC brethren were eager to welcome BC athletes to some of the most hostile road venues in college sports.
Still, a funny thing happened on the way to disaster. Instead of coughing and choking on Tobacco Road, the Eagles often soared. Led by forwards Craig Smith and Jared Dudley and point guard Louis Hinnant, BC (26-7) was undefeated (5-0) on Tobacco Road before losing Sunday to perennial powerhouse Duke.
"There were people that said we couldn't play in the ACC," said BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But if our football team had beaten North Carolina, we would have played for the ACC championship in basketball and football in our first year."
John Swofford, who was North Carolina's athletic director for 17 years and is now in his ninth year as ACC commissioner, says that BC's transition to the ACC has been seamless.
"I really couldn't tell you any issue or problem related to it. It has helped a lot that BC representatives and coaches have been attending [ACC] administrative and coaching meetings for two years," Swofford said. "Groundwork was laid during that time and relationships were built, which made things easier. ... From a competition standpoint, they've done very well, an excellent football season, a superb basketball season, an excellent women's basketball season."
The final proof, Swofford said, was BC's play in the crown jewel of ACC athletics, and, some would argue, the crown jewel of American college sports: The ACC men's basketball tournament.
"They've made a tremendous impression," Swofford said. "In this league, the ACC basketball tournament is considered to be very special. They came in and played three tremendous games [beating Maryland and North Carolina] back-to-back and easily could have been our champion. When you perform the way they did for three straight days in an event as high profile as the ACC Tournament, you earn an awful lot of acceptance and respect right off the bat.
"I'm not surprised [about BC's overall athletic success] because they came from a very good conference and they are in a very good conference. They're used to strong competition. Some people down here who perhaps didn't pay as much attention might not have realized the quality of the sports program they were bringing."
Given that many veteran ACC people were looking forward to the usual Duke-UNC final, Skinner was asked afterward if he felt his Eagles were viewed as intruders barging in on a family reunion.
"I don't think we're crashing their party," he said. "We're all part of a new league, and you might as well get used to this. There are some new people in town, and you will hopefully welcome us with open arms."
Although Swofford points out that Miami, which bolted the Big East for the ACC a year ago, is roughly the same distance from the nearest ACC school, Florida State, as BC is from its nearest ACC colleague, Maryland, there's no denying that BC is a geographical oddity in a very Southern conference. DeFilippo says BC spent $350,000 more on travel for its 31 teams this season.
Still, as DeFilippo points out, the Big East BC left a year ago is no longer the intimate nine-team league it once was. Even had BC stayed, its travel expenses would have risen anyway because Marquette (Milwaukee), DePaul (Chicago), Cincinnati (Ohio), Louisville (Kentucky) and South Florida have been added to the Big East. The Big East is now a full-fledged two-time zone league where you can get a tan and frostbite in the same travel day.
"Those aren't bus trips," DeFilippo said. "And academically and institutionally, [moving to the ACC] is a great fit. And let's talk about the payday. At the end, it's significantly greater than at any time in the Big East. I don't mind using a small portion of that money to travel."
Expanding to 12 teams by adding Miami, Virginia Tech and BC, the ACC got the lucrative football championship game it wanted. The seven-year, $258 million contract it signed with ABC and ESPN is nearly double the ACC's previous TV contract, and it's more than 15 times what BC's Big East was getting from those networks.
"Everything financial," Swofford said, "has worked out beyond our projections."
Ditto for BC.
"This is the first year in BC's history that we were sold out in football, men's basketball and men's hockey," DeFilippo said. "The excitement and enthusiasm on our campus when we had the Duke game [an 83-81 BC loss Feb. 1 at Conte Forum] is the single greatest sporting event of all-time at BC. We had thingyie Vitale, Doug Flutie, Bob Kraft, Tim Russert, Bill Belichick, Larry Lucchino, [Red Sox CEO] Mike Dee [at the game]."
Does DeFilippo see BC's successful transition as vindication?
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "I knew in my heart it was the best move for BC. Any other athletic director in the league would have done the same thing. I'm no genius. ... I've got to do what I believe. I'm not vindicated."
Swofford took plenty of criticism, too. In many quarters, the ACC was seen as a shameless money-grubbing predator, stealing teams from the Big East to inflate its worth to the TV networks.
"My job is to represent our schools and our [university] presidents," Swofford said. "The whole process was misinterpreted and mislabeled, because expansion has to be a two-way street. A conference can't steal another school even if they would want to. I think everybody has moved on from there. You saw other conferences make the same decisions [to add teams). A conference has to do what's in its best interests. All conferences do that. Our expansion wasn't anything new to college athletics. I suspect at some point you'll see more movement."
And for BC, perhaps some restoring of old ties.
"We're going to play Providence in basketball," DeFilippo said. "We're going to sign a long-term deal with Syracuse.'
And UConn, where Jim Calhoun has vowed never to schedule BC again?
"There are no plans to play Connecticut in football or basketball in the foreseeable future," DeFelippo said, although he admits he'd consider it.
"But my phone's not ringing off the hook."