ACC Football Coaches Excited About Expansion

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Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It's not just a basketball conference anymore, but it appears to be still owned by the same team.

Despite the Atlantic Coast Conference's two latest football additions ‹ Miami and Virginia Tech ‹ Florida State which has owned the Atlantic Coast Conference the last 12 years was predicted, again by the media to own it for at least one more year.

Florida State was No. 1 followed by Miami, Virginia, Clemson and Maryland in the top five.

"I've been preseason champion for the past few years, but I don't have a trophy to show for it," Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden said.

Most of the meeting's focus though, was on Miami and Virginia Tech and the potential the ACC now has with them.

The addition of the two traditional football powerhouses shifts the ACC from a conference dominated by basketball schools, to one where both sports share the limelight. This was roundly applauded by the coaches at their annual ACC Football Kickoff Conference, held at Grandover Resort and Conference Center Tuesday.

"We are truly an Atlantic coast conference now, stretching all the way from Boston to Miami," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.

"It was already a great league, and now it's the premiere league," Duke coach Ted Roof said.

A league Miami head coach Larry Coker says scares him somewhat.

"From a strictly selfish football perspective, it wasn't a good move for us," he said. "Originally, I didn't want to make the move. The Big East was very good to us.

"When it's all said and done, I'm excited about (moving into the ACC). It'll make me a better coach, and make my staff better. It'll have to." Most of the coaches in the room shared Coker's sentiment about the increasing quality of football now playing in the ACC.

"In my mind, we want to be at the level of Florida State or Miami, and maybe this (expansion) will help us get there," Friedgen said.

"It does make it more difficult, but I think it's a shot in the arm for the conference," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "It definitely throws us (the

ACC) on top of the heap."

"It may be a little tougher immediately, but in the long run, it'll help us out," Wake Forrest coach Jim Grobe said. "But for the short term, we've really got our work cut out for us." This isn't the first time that the ACC has experienced growing pains.

Florida State joined the conference in 1992 and has won or shared 11 of the last 12 championships.

"Florida State changed the dynamic of the league when they came in, and I wouldn't be surprised if Miami does the same thing," Friedgen said.

The Hurricanes have beaten Florida State the last five times the two have met.

"(Expansion) just adds new traditions," Bunting said. "Of course you won't be able to play all eleven teams, but there is a genuine, tremendous excitement about having these other schools." As for as the Seminoles being favored to win the league title again, despite Miami's recent dominence in the series.

"It doesn't matter anyway, (the media) don't ever get it right," said Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey.

Virginia head coach Al Groh said his team's No. 3 seeding means little this time of year.

"Obviously it's better than being No. 11," he said. "But I don't think it really means much." The pressure, according to Tommy Bowden, comes after the season starts, and the influx of new talent is just going to add more pressure.

"It puts as much pressure on the bottom and middle of the pack to get up to the top as it does those teams like Florida State and Miami to defend their place at the top," said Clemson's head coach.

There is also an edge to be gained in the recruiting battles across the country with the ACC's new-found prominence.

"The state of Florida is going to learn about the ACC, now that we have two teams in state." Bobby Bowden said of the recruiting battles within the state of Florida with the University of Florida. "The step-brother is down in Gainesville now." Regardless of what happens during the season, the ACC has the eyes of the college football world, not basketball, focusing on it.

Dan Tomayko is a sports writer for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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