Friday, January 6, 2012

Sorry state of ACC football, basketball; Odds and ends: Islanders, PGA Tour starts today, Army-Navy documentary

I have one question this morning: Has West Virginia stopped scoring yet?

It is now fair to say that the ACC’s complete and total humiliation as a football conference is complete. If the league had one very small thing going for it the last few years it was that it had so destroyed The Big East as a football conference by raiding Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, that it could always at least make the claim that, “Well, we’re not as bad as The Big East.”

Actually that might have made a pretty good slogan for ACC football: “Not as bad as The Big East!”

(That reminds me of a bumper sticker that my great friend Tom Mickle came up with years ago when he was the SID at Duke and the school hired a guy named Red Wilson as football coach. Everywhere you went in the fall of 1978 if you were anywhere close to Duke you saw the slogan, “Red Means Go!” Duke went 2-9 that season which, back then, was the worst season in Duke history. These days two wins gets whoever is coaching Duke nominated for ACC coach-of-the-year. The next spring I asked Mickle what his slogan was going to be for Wilson’s second season. “Duke Football 1979,” he said. That sounded optimistic to me).

Anyway, back to the wonders of ACC football circa 2012. The ACC got eight bowl bids this season. The only reason it wasn’t nine was because 6-6 Miami decided to take a chance that by staying home this year it might not be docked a potential postseason berth next season ala Ohio State, which couldn’t wait to send ITS 6-6 team to The Gator Bowl where it met another 6-6 team, Florida. You know the Gator Bowl used to be a halfway decent second-tier bowl. Now it has become a haven for the truly mediocre.

So, the ACC sent eight teams to bowls. Two won: North Carolina State, which managed to beat Louisville—if it were basketball that might be impressive—and Florida State, which came from behind to beat Notre Dame, a team that proved this season it can lose a close game to anyone. (For the record, Notre Dame beat one good team this season: Michigan State. Their other seven wins were over four teams with losing records; one team that is 6-6 and two teams that were 7-6. Impressive).

That’s the list of ACC bowl wins. The fact that the league got two BCS bids is absolute proof of what a farce the BCS is, as if we need any more proof than we already have. Virginia Tech is a very solid program and Frank Beamer’s an excellent coach, but the Hokies beat NO ONE this season and lost twice (soundly) to Clemson, the team that West Virginia is still scoring on as we speak. Yes, Tech kept the Sugar Bowl close before losing to Michigan in overtime. Fine. But any Hokie fan can tell you this is the school’s history the last dozen or so years: They keep it close playing big teams and ALWAYS lose. Sorry, beating Georgia Tech doesn’t count.

I’m writing my Sunday Washington Post column on the sorry state of ACC basketball. In talking to ACC people, the consensus is this: One of the things hurting basketball is the league’s insistence on trying to pump up its mediocre football. If you hire good coaches, you’ll win. If you hire bad coaches, they’ll lose. All the marketing money in the world isn’t going to change that. And the perception that Commissioner John Swofford cares only about pumping up his football dollars while letting North Carolina and Duke do all the heavy lifting in basketball isn’t helping things at all.

ACC people are already saying that Florida State will be ready for the national stage again next season. Of course that’s what they were saying about THIS season before the Seminoles became just another second-tier bowl team and lost to Wake Forest—among others.

Around Washington the joke is that the highlight of the NFL season comes in April. In the ACC it comes in August when the conference somehow lands five teams in the pre-season top 25 thanks to its PR and marketing hype before it all crashes once actual games are played. Virginia Tech will probably come in somewhere between 15 and 22 in the final polls. Florida State may sneak in at the bottom of the top 25.

That’s the list. That’s ACC football: 11 Gator Bowl teams and Duke, which would love the chance to buy tickets to watch The Gator Bowl. Of course Syracuse and Pittsburgh are on the way. Syracuse finished 5-7 this season. Pitt is 6-6 and playing on some god-awful bowl this weekend. Their addition will mean the ACC will have 13 Gator Bowl teams. And Duke—The Washington Generals of college football.


A few quick comments on other topics:

--Has anyone noticed that The New York Islanders have won three in a row and moved within 11 points of the final playoffs spot? (If you’re answer is yes I feel sorry for you. You’re as pathetic as I am.)

--I never root against a Mike Krzyzewski team. But I couldn’t help but feel really good for Fran Dunphy when his Temple team beat Duke on Wednesday. A really good coach but a better guy.

--The new golf season begins today in Hawaii with a grand total of 28 players showing up to play in the (insert car name here) Tournament of Champions. Three of the four major champions said, ‘thanks but no thanks,’ to a week on Maui playing with no cut for several million bucks. You think The PGA Tour needs to take a look at making some changes in this event before NO ONE at all shows up?

--A couple of posters asked how I could know that no new ground was broken in CBS’s multi-million dollar Army-Navy documentary when I said I didn’t watch the whole thing. What I wrote was that I didn’t see anything that broke new ground. People who HAVE watched the whole thing tell me they didn’t see anything new from start to finish. Rather than go back and watch it and give what would no doubt be a biased critique I will leave the final word (for now) to a reviewer who enjoyed the documentary and praised the idea, the slickness of the production and liked the people portrayed. “It does, however, come off as a recruiting film for both academies,” he wrote.

Gee, I’m stunned.

I have nothing bad to say about either academy as people well know. But I DO (modestly) think that the reason “A Civil War,’ resonated with a lot of people was that I did NOT attempt to glorify the players or the academies. Both by their own admission have plenty of flaws. I let them tell their stories. I thought that was enough.

My newest book is now available at your local bookstore, or you can order on-line here: One on One-- Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game 


Anonymous said...

Between the pros and the bowls, I've watched so much BAD football this year I'm ready for the pro bowlers tour to liven things up.

J. Saum, Pennsylvania said...

Your observation of the pga champions tournament going on in Hawaii begs the obvious question... What kind of incentive do you have to come up with to get all of last years winners to show up for gods sake? If fabulous weather, guarantee of a fat paycheck regardless of finish, and awesome vacation with family aren't incentive enough anymore, than what is?

pulmcrit1 said...

John, I'm reading "One on One" and the stories are absolutely wonderful. The chapter on the season you spent with Army and Navy is incredible because of the time and effort it took for you to get access, and all the personal connections you made. Thanks for sharing it.
On a completely different topic, what do you think about Jim Rome leaving ESPN? He's supposed to be going to the CBS Sports Network. Would like to read your thoughts, or hear them if you will be on his radio program in the near future.

Mark said...

Nah, I was brushing my teeth this morning and WVU scored another touchdown.

Michael said...

I understand that college sports is dominated by the needs of television. But why did Notre Dame play a basketball game on January 14 starting at 11 a.m.? It seems silly to me.

Anonymous said...

Mark Turgeon (The Turd) needs to recruit a point guard or he will be in the toilet next year. Pe'Shon is too injury prone to be relied on to play that position. Look for MD Men's Bskbl team to never have post season play if they can't get a point guard.