The ACC is a conference that shares everything -- friendship, tailgates, revenue, smiles, heartbreak -- but in different hands, things could get real weird, real fast. What follows is fiction, loosely borrowed from other sources.
A man in his mid sixties stands at a podium. He appears nervous, squirrelly and disheveled. His tie, loose with a giant knot, akin to a kid tying it for his own First Communion. The lights are dim. There is a single spot focused on the podium. The man sweats. The audible click-click-click of an oversized clock makes its way over the noise of the assembled press contingent waiting for something to happen.
The man shuffles some papers, pauses and opens his mouth slightly.
"Hello, everyone. I am glad that you were able to come today. I have a very exciting announcement. I, of course, am John Swofford, Commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference."
The press rolls its eyes. Another dull Swofford presser. Get on with it, JohnBoy.
"The Bowl Championship Series is coming to an end. What millions of college football fans outside our conference may have considered only a slight impressive display of power, bringing in Notre Dame, along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, has meant immeasurably more for the old fans, the great and powerful members of the ACC."
Radio host David Glenn sits perplexed. Mesmerized. He is speechless. The entire room is quieter than the home crowd at a Miami football game.
"There may be one or two of you, who, in spite of the gathering of our conference, may recall the days when it was tough to be a part of the ACC. When our conference lost bowl game after bowl game. When we endured slander and vitriol. We wanted to remain humble and hungry, staying true to the beliefs we hold dear. We were in the minority. We had to mobilize. To sacrifice. To make the rest of the college football world notice us and recognize the pride and courage of each and every member of this great conference (aside from Boston College)."
"What in the living hell is going on," writer John Feinstein thought, trembling. "Something isn't right here."
"We must be unchanging in our doctrine, hard as steel in our tactics, supple and adaptable. The goal must be that all loyal members of the Atlantic Coast Conference will become Atlantic Socialists. The fortune belongs to us completely. Tier 1 and 2 rights, bowl money and riches beyond our wildest dreams. While the older ones, along with Florida State, may waiver. The younger and smaller of us are committed, body and soul. Only when we have the cooperation of everyone will the conference be an eternal and indestructible pillar of college football."
Beat writer Ira Schoffel, usually vocal about the power dynamic of the ACC, was silent. His eyes were transfixed on the man at the podium, who appeared three inches taller than before. The man's hair was untamed. His eyes were wild with power.
"I come among you to look you firmly in the eyes, feel your temperature and break the silence which is dear to me, especially in wartime. Have you ever asked yourselves in an hour of meditation, which everyone finds during the day, how long we have been at war? At war with the rest of the nation, with ESPN, with the national pundits like Forde and Finebaum. But developments in history, which sometimes are sped up, cannot be halted any more than the fleeting movement of Jim Brown could be halted. Football takes one by the throat and forces a decision. This is not the first time this has happened in the history of the ACC.
"We are not like the SEC. We boast that we are not like them. We call spreads, spreads and options, options. When another conference wins a bowl game as they -- or other powers like the Big 10 -- have so many times before, it is useless and ridiculous to deny or diminish it. We should fire the whole conference that the ACC belongs not to the Florida States and the Clemsons, but to the people. To everyone.
"There is an ancient North Carolina fable that tells of an old man who lived in the Appalachian Mountains. He aimed to dig up the mountains that stood in the way, keeping him from getting to Boone. Others, like Rocky Top, would say 'How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you to dig up those mountains.' The old man laughed, and said, 'When I die, my sons will carry on. The mountains cannot get any higher, but with every passing year we will get lower. We will dig on.' Moved by this, the old Southern God sent down two angels to help.
"Brothers and sisters of the ACC. Hear me. We must persevere. We must work unceasingly. We must touch the soul of Bear Bryant. Our masses are strong. Our heart beats as one. If we all stand together and dig, why can't we move these mountains?"
The press was moved. They hadn't felt this way in quite some time. There was something infectious about the cadence and the rhythm of the man's words.
"In any case the road to success is pictured as beset with perils -- perils that, it would seem, an individual team with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. We have had those teams at times -- Clemson, FSU, Virginia Tech -- with those proper qualities. The reward is seen in the distance, but the way is lonely. Furthermore, it is a contest among wolves. One can only win at the cost of the failure of others. There is a danger that the forest will not be seen through the trees. To build the Atlantic Socialist Conference, it is necessary, simultaneous with the new foundation, to build the new team. The new program. This is why it is important to mobilize. Our conference must be driven by a certain moral character. We cannot lull the masses through propaganda and the words of sports information departments. We must speak out.
"We must be vanguard.
"We must persevere.
"Homeland or death.
"Long live the Atlantic Socialist Conference. Long live Greensboro."
With a pound of the fist on the podium, shaking the room, the man closed his eyes a moment and walked off. Nothing had changed. Everything had changed. There was still Bojangles. But the meaning of everything -- Bojangles included -- was in flux.