ACC Expansion Fallout
Enough time has elapsed since the conclusion (at least temporary) of the ACC expansion for us to survey the scene and make some judgments. I wish I could say that many people emerged from the exercise as heroes, but I can't. I tried to follow developments as closely as I could, but I'm not sure, to this day, that I fully understand exactly what took place. One of the oddest things about the developments was that the best source of information I found was a Florida State message board. Somebody on that board obviously knows somebody on the "inside" and they were talking. At one point, the President of FSU issued a public apology for having transmitted confidential information to the Chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees. I see no problem in his sharing information with the Chairman of the BT, but for goodness sakes, couldn't he have made the point more forcefully that the information was confidential and not subject to be posted on a message board. Maybe college presidents can't be forceful any more and, to some extent, that is understandable. But the bottom line is someone HAS to be in charge and more and more in college and university settings, it is difficult, at times, to determine just who that is.
Two things happened that, for me, are positives in a situation where positives were hard to find. One was the revelation by John Swofford in an interview published in the Charlotte Observer that he had not taken a position on the matter of expansion. You might ask how I view that as a positive and maybe I am stretching here, but the positive is that at least now I know or know what JS is saying about his role in expansion. I'm afraid I misinterpreted his actions and I should have known better. According to JS, his role was simply in response to a request made several years ago by the head of the Ga. Tech faculty committee to examine the question of expansion. The way the issue unfolded, it looked as if there had been a stealth attack by the Swofford when, in fact, work had been ongoing for over two years. Apparently it got out when someone, Swofford, I presume, contacted Notre Dame to assess their feelings about joining the ACC and ND, in turn, notified the Commissioner of the Big East of what was going on. The Commissioner promptly exploded and I guess I don't fault him for doing so since he has a job to do also. There was really no good way to handle it.
Back to Swofford. JS took a lot of abuse over the expansion, some of which was personal and is the sort of thing that has to bother a person. He became the lightening rod for the ACC Presidents and some very unkind things were said that can't be taken back. One Washington reporter even made fun of the way he combed his hair in addition to accusing him of being greedy when he was only doing his job. It might have been impossible to represent the Presidents of the various ACC universities effectively without some of the damage spilling over to him personally. I trust that he told the complete truth in his interview and I regret some of the thoughts I had about him during the expansion negotiations.
The second positive was the interview President Hearn of Wake Forest gave regarding deliberations and how there was genuine confusion among the Presidents. This took courage as far as I am concerned. According to President Hearn, some of the Presidents thought that the vote to admit the original four schools meant that unless negative information was reported back by the inspection committee sent to the schools, they would be members of the expanded ACC. He said, however, that another group felt that an additional vote had to take place before these schools would be officially admitted and here is where things really got out of hand. When it came time to vote on Boston College, Chancellor Fox changed her vote which denied Boston College admittance. I have been unable to find any information which indicates that a vote was taken on Syracuse which, if true, raises an interesting question. Why was a vote not taken on Syracuse? It had to be one of two things. Either JS realized or was told that Fox's vote would be the same on Syracuse as it had been for Boston College or the ACC did not want just one of the two northern schools. It is still not clear to me why Fox changed her vote and she has refused to discuss it with the media. That's why I admire what President Hearn did by talking with the press. I would really like to know if President Hearn did this totally on his own or if the group of Presidents decided that it would be a prudent thing for him to do on behalf of the group. We may never know, but a book on the subject sure would be interesting.
In Virginia, where I reside, the Governor (D) and the Attorney General (R) are competing to see who can get the most credit for having maneuvered Va. Tech into the ACC. They both attended a Hokie Club meeting here in Richmond recently, and I'm sure there were some anguished Wahoos who saw a photograph of them basking in their glory in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the following day. It's understandable why President Casteen won't talk with the media about the expansion because his role is not something I feel he is proud of. He simply didn't have any choice. I'm told that Casteen got some phone calls from influential members of the Va. General Assembly ( like money committees) in addition to the Governor and Attorney General urging him to "strongly consider" backing Va. Tech's bid to gain admittance to the ACC. Even though UVA does not get the level of financial support from the Commonwealth of Virginia that UNC gets from the State of North Carolina, I'm sure that President Casteen wasn't about to risk 8% or 13% of their budget ( I've read both ) over the Va. Tech question. For comparison, I am told that approximately 25% of UNC's budget comes from the State of North Carolina.
The heat is slowly going from the situation and, in a couple of years, no one will give any thought as to how the ACC became what it will be. How many people remember that UVA was not one of the original members of the ACC? Time marches on.
There remain some questions that I am trying to have answered and if I get them, I will share.
1. Why was UVA aligned with the expansion forces from the outset? This seems to be a departure from their traditional stance. Their later position is understandable somewhat.
2. Why was Wake Forest aligned with the expansion forces? Traditionally they have joined with Duke, UNC, and UVA in an "academic" grouping of schools.
3. What is the story behind Mary Ann Fox being on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees? What are the implications of this fact for future negotiations if we decide to add a 12th member? Did this fact, in some way, become involved in her changing her vote to admit Boston College?