Friday, March 11, 2016

My ACC Tourney rant

While watching Wednesday's ACC Tournament quarterfinal game between Georgia Tech and Clemson, it occurred to me that I was seeing a lot of empty seats in the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, where the tournament is being played.

I wondered why. I mean, it's the ACC Tournament, for crying out loud. It was a 7 p.m. prime time  game, and yet from what I could see on TV, the 18,000-plus area was peppered with vacant seats.

Even press row looked sparsely populated.

So I did what any rational person would do when looking for an answer and I went to Facebook. I typed in "Under no circumstances should the ACC Tournament be played at any venue other than the Greensboro Coliseum. All those empty seats at the Verizon Center are an embarrassment," expecting maybe to collect a like or two.

I got a can of worms instead. Sort of.

Most of the handful of commenters agreed with me. The Greensboro Coliseum was always a great venue for the tournament. For one thing, Greensboro represents the historic headquarters of the ACC. It's also the geographic center for the conference. And it's intrinsically Southern, with all the hospitality that implies. It's just a natural fit.

The primary debate came from my friend, Dave Goren, the former sports director for WXII. Dave made some valid points, noting that there have been empty seats when the tourney was in Greensboro, and I suggested that the four Tobacco Road teams (North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest) almost always drew the biggest crowds, no matter who they played.

I also suggested that expansion watered down the tournament, and when the tourney site moved away from Greensboro, it was moving away from its roots. It's hard for me to imagine New Yorkers or Bostonians or South Benders to feel the same kind passion for the tourney as the ACC's charter members. Plus, moving the tourney site from its center increases travel distances and accommodations for somebody.

Expansion and moving the tourney to large population centers is all motivated by money, of course. Television. High rollers. Consequently, the tourney feels a little unwieldy right now. Too many teams. Overkill. One suggestion, from Facebook friend John Strickland, suggested only the top eight teams in the league should play in the tourney. And you know what? That's not a half bad idea. It puts a greater premium on the regular season. And it brings back a tourney format most of us are used to.

The trouble is, Pandora is already out of her box. The league will never shrink because the money is too great.

All that's left is to pine for the good ol' days.

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