From down here in the Southland, Tuesday’s Pinstripe Bowl press conference in the Bronx, featuring the ACC and the New York Yankees seemed so surreal that the only thing missing was the cast from Seinfeld.
Wouldn’t it have been a great episode if the Yankees had re-hired George Costanza and appointed him executive director of the Pinstripe Bowl? Certainly George would have found a way to make a mess of things at the press conference, welcoming in all the Southerners to the Big Apple and offending ACC commish John Swofford.
Tuesday wasn’t a sitcom. It was real. For those of us who grew up watching the eight- then seven-team ACC, the recent changes have been mindboggling. We should get used to it because we’ve passed the point of no return.
Starting on Monday, the ACC will jump from 12 teams to 15 with the official addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame (in all sports but football, even though the Irish will play five football games annually vs. ACC teams). A year from Monday, Louisville will become an official member and Maryland will depart for the Big Ten.
Who’da thunk it?
Boeheim and Pitino and Knute Rockne … oh, my.
Notre Dame will be playing football in Scott Stadium in a couple of years. Louisville will be UVa’s primary crossover scheduling partner, replacing Maryland (nice trade if you ask me). Who knows, the Cavaliers might even be playing football in Yankee Stadium some time down the road. How cool is that?
This ain’t your daddy’s ACC.
Reading the transcripts of Tuesday’s bowl press conference, it was difficult to determine who was the most giddy: Swofford or the Yankees. The deal begins for the 2014 season, with an ACC team facing off against a Big Ten team on Saturday, Dec. 28.
While I admit to being a college football nut, I have been an outspoken critic of there being too many bowl games, too many meaningless games. Most of the bowls lost their appeal to me and I watch fewer of them every year.
However, I must confess that one of the bowls that captured my interest last December was the Pinstripe Bowl. One, because of the setting, Yankee Stadium. Two, because of the weather. It snowed practically the whole game and who doesn’t like watching a game in the snow?
Anyways, you have to tip your hat to Swofford for all that he’s done to make the ACC relevant in the turmoil of college athletics over the past two years. Outsiders predicted gloom and doom for the ACC, that it would crumble apart and be swallowed up by other leagues.
While I have to thump my own chest that I shot down every one of those rumors because I knew that Swofford wouldn’t allow that to happen, the ACC boss far exceeded my expectations on what transpired.
Not only was he pro-active in bringing in Syracuse and Pitt, but fought for the ACC’s seat at the big boys' table in the college football playoffs and the rearrangement of the Orange Bowl deal. Then, he pulled off the near-impossible by luring Notre Dame into the league under the condition of the 5-game gridiron pact.
Now, Swofford has the ACC in New York City. There are going to be ACC signs hanging up in Yankee Stadium (you think Kramer might have a piece of that action?). And, I’ll bet ol’ John isn’t done yet. There’s the little old thing called the ACC Basketball Tournament dangling there with the potential to be played in Madison Square Garden or the new arena over in Brooklyn. Hmm.
“This is truly a terrific opportunity,” Swofford said. “To play in this game on an annual basis, in the media capital of the world and partner with the most storied and iconic franchise, and stadium, in American sports. It’s a partnership that makes sense in every way.”
Swofford is getting every ounce of promotional value out of this trip to New York. Come Monday, in conjunction with the ACC’s growth to 15 members, Swofford will be at the NASDAQ Stock Market Closing Bell ceremony. He will be joined by Boeheim, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, and former Pitt All-American receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
While the ACC will be squaring off against a Big Ten team in the game, it sort of allows the two conferences to share the spotlight of NYC, something that both leagues covet. We all know that Notre Dame owns the place with its Subway Alumni, but the ACC is certainly plotting its strategy.
“Certainly New York becomes a very, very important part of our footprint and our newly aligned conference,” Swofford said.
Officials from the Yankees and the bowl game pointed out that adding the ACC to the mix has raised the profile of the event to the next level.
The Pinstripe Bowl has grown in attendance and TV ratings in each of its first three years, although the 2013 game could take a step backward after the changes in the Big East and Big 12 (last year of the contract).
Who wouldn’t enjoy a bowl trip to New York at Christmas with all the holiday activities available outside of the game itself?
Virginia would clearly favor a trip there because of alumni and the strength of its alumni club (which shares a spot in the Yale Club), in addition to it’s a relatively short trip compared to other bowl games.
The Pinstripe Bowl, the ACC, the New York Yankees, the Big Apple, is a win-win for the conference.
Now, if Costanza can just hang on to the job …