There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t wake up being thankful for being a sports fan in North Carolina. This November, the SportsChannel8 team and a panel of peers from NC media will be counting down to Thanksgiving with the top 25 things we have to be thankful for in this great state.
#25 – The Atlantic Coast Conference
It’s easy to give thanks during the good times. Being thankful during times of anger, confusion, and frustration, that’s true love.
Eyes across the country are on the ACC right now for all of the wrong reasons as an entire crew of on-field and replay officials were suspended yesterday for multiple errors on the final play of the Duke/Miami football game that robbed the Blue Devils of the win, robbed NC fans of a matchup between two ranked teams in the battle for the Victory Bell, and ultimately robbed itself of a much-needed boost in national perception. The league did the most they could do within their power by punishing the crew and admitting the indisputable miss on the replay (which differs from the Thomas Sirk touchdown that was reviewed with no conclusive evidence to overturn the call) and the multiple blocks in the back that were also clear on replay, but that’s little consolation for Duke who now has no margin for error in their quest for a fourth straight Pool 1 (or higher) bowl.
While the fallout from the call has Blue Devil fans seething and fans from every other school in the state pointing out the numerous times from the past that referees directly cost them a game (TA was definitely in, Kendall Marshall definitely pushed off, Justise Winslow definitely cleared the lane, and … okay I can’t think of a call that went in NC State or Wake’s favor, maybe you guys have a point), we love the ACC in ways that fans outside of North Carolina will never understand. The ACC is our home, and though we may act like rebellious teenagers who threaten to run away every time our friends next door get to do something we’re not allowed to do, we’re still here. And we’ll fight at the drop of a hat when outsiders speak poorly of our family.
The conference was born in 1953 when seven schools, including Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest, seceded from the Southern Conference in protest of the league’s ban on post season play in football. IN FOOTBALL. Though the league gained prominence as a basketball league, mostly thanks to the sustained excellence of the Big Four and the popularity of unprecedented events like the Dixie Classic and the ACC Basketball Tournament, football has been the catalyst for growth and change from the league’s birth. In 1978, the league extended an invitation to traditional football power Georgia Tech, and did the same again in 1991 with the addition of Florida State. In 2004, the league made known their plans to add Boston College, Virginia Tech, and football power Miami for the sole purpose of creating divisions in order to create a conference football championship game. Miami remains the only school from the first three waves of expansion without a divisional championship.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse were added later, followed by Louisville, and a conditional agreement with Notre Dame to join the league in all sports except football. Each of these moves were both strategic in terms of TV markets and reactive in terms of protecting the ACC’s football product during the massive shifts in conference alignment going on around them. The ACC is, and always will be, a football league that’s really good at basketball.
Most talk, both locally and nationally, about the ACC is unfortunately done in comparison of other power conferences. The league does not have the history of the Big Ten, the demographics of the football-crazed SEC, the geography of the PAC-12, or the state of Texas. Nor will it ever have any of those things. What the ACC does have, that these other power conferences will never be able to replicate, is the people who make up this conference. Each school has the ability to stand alone on its own merits with fans who identify more with their own teams than they do with the league as a whole. You’ll never hear an ACC chant without irony or sarcasm, and you’ll never find an ACC fan who would turn to a national media outlet before they’d turn to their own team’s local media.
What’s great about the ACC is the conference knows this, and they take care of their fans, their members, and their media better than anyone else out there. Go to any league event, from the ACC tournament to any member venue to any pre-season media day, and every individual attendee is treated with the southern hospitality that you’d expect from any home throughout the original footprint. The league equally embraces new media and traditional media, perfectly blending a progressive mindset with history and tradition. Fans are passionate, intelligent, and full of unique humor, and they’re also arrogant, paranoid, and wildly protective. It’s truly the best of all worlds.
We’re thankful for Florida State football and Virginia Tech basketball. We’re thankful for Jamie Luckie and Ron Cherry. We’re thankful for Commissioner Swofford, and we’re thankful for every fan who is 100% certain he’s single-handedly ruining your school’s chances at being successful. Sure, the league makes us all angry and makes us all question why we’re still here, but that’s how things go in any family at some point. Above all else, we are proud to be the home of the ACC, and we are proud to call the ACC home.