I’ve always had a strong affection for the Atlantic Coast Conference because we were both created at the same time. On May 8, 1953, commissioner Jim Weaver officially opened the first ACC office and made history, while my parents officially closed their bedroom door and made me. Eighteen years later I left high school, and the University of South Carolina left the ACC. It marked the beginning of a great journey for me and the beginning of the end for the real ACC.
Sixty-eight years ago, the ACC was comprised of eight schools: UNC, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. Granted, none of the league’s football teams were national powerhouses in those days, but oh my, could we play basketball! Speaking of which, the competition was so great among the four North Carolina schools, that the ACC even held an annual “Big 4” tournament from 1971 to 1981. Of course, the “Big 4”, like the ACC tournament, was always held at the Greensboro Coliseum. Sure there were periodic rumblings from non-Big 4 schools who felt like they were outsiders, but only South Carolina acted on its paranoia and left the conference in 1971 (Maryland eventually pulled out in 2014). The ACC’s second commissioner, Bob James waited eight years before admitting Georgia Tech to the conference, and while many fans missed the heated competition with South Carolina, the Yellow Jackets proved a good fit for at least restoring the league of eight.
Losing the Gamecocks was a blow to ACC purists, but the real insult came in the decade between 2004 and 2014 when commissioner John Swofford allowed seven more schools to join the conference. In came Boston College, Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Louisville, and Syracuse, and out went the character and traditions of the ACC. Suddenly the Greensboro Coliseum wasn’t big enough and accessible enough to suit our new interlopers, so the ACC tournament was held at rotating venues including in Atlanta, D.C., and New York City. Not so gradually, our little regional family had morphed into a major corporation. But, hey, at least the conference office and its 50 employees would still remain in Greensboro, right? Maybe not.
Earlier this year, Jim Phillips took over as ACC commissioner, and by late last month, he had hired Newmark, a Texas-based real estate advisory firm, to help him decide where the conference headquarters should be located. That means sometime soon, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and a team of hand-picked ambassadors will have to do a dog and pony show for some guys from Texas who could care less about the Gate City, or the history and traditions of the ACC. The good news is if anyone can save what’s left of the real ACC, it’s Nancy Vaughan. The bad news is I’m afraid the handwriting is already on the moving van walls.
As far as I’m concerned, the ACC hasn’t been the ACC for nearly 20 years, so I suppose one more nail in the coffin won’t make much difference. Still, I hope I’m wrong about Mr. Phillips, but I can’t help thinking that what my parents were doing in 1953, is being done to Greensboro in 2021.