Commentary: Expansion Lessons - Wanted or Unwanted - Will Linger


by - Correspondent -
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Mike Krzyzewski's credibility is at an all-time low?

CLEMSON - As the paint begins to dry on the new ACC logo, it's worth a look back at what we learned during nearly two months of very public, sometimes profane expansion talks. We were entertained. We were sickened. We were informed. We were bludgeoned. But we seemingly never went without a new episode of what quickly became the sporting world's favorite soap opera. For instance: - We learned that ACC Commissioner John Swofford, a former North Carolina athletic director, may not bow to the Tobacco Road Mafia after all. Despite his Tar Heel ties, Swofford openly defied the wishes of North Carolina's basketball-wielding power players and ultimately saw that the ACC did indeed expand. True, the original expansion plan involving Syracuse and Boston College fell through - due in part to a shifting of stance by UNC and its fellow stone wall, Duke (along with Virginia Governor Mark Warner. More about him later.) - but Swofford found a way to negotiate through the muck and strike a deal which, in the long run, could end up being more beneficial to the conference. And while there are those both within the confines of ACC country and across the nation calling Swofford such cute names as "buffoon" for his struggle to close the deal, the mere fact that he was able to shuck, jive, jab and counterpunch every haymaker thrown his way - political and otherwise - proves to this camp that his savvy was exceeded only by his patience. Kudos, John. Now, about that 12th team... - We learned that both UNC and Duke are still, well, UNC and Duke. Given the opportunity to play the role of visionary and help forge a brave, new place for the ACC in the hierarchy of major college football, our Tobacco Road twins instead did everything they could to scuttle the deal. Why? Basketball tickets. For many at UNC and Duke - including those who carry the large checkbooks - the ACC's only real purpose is to support their basketball habit. That, of course, is because too many at those schools the ACC is now, and forever will be, just a basketball conference. Officials at the two schools can say what they want in public, but those in the know understand the real reason behind the constant objections and no votes: Those big-money boosters threatened to withhold those big-money checks if those in power at each school voted for expansion, which in turn would cut into their allotment of ACC basketball tournament tickets. Too bad, Blunder Twins. Expansion happened anyway. - We learned that politicians have no shame. Okay, we knew that politicians have no shame. But this whole process only served to reinforce the notion. Really, who the heck ever heard of Richard Blumenthal until he, as Connecticut attorney general, took it upon himself to file a lawsuit to try and stop the ACC from taking teams from the Big East? As the preposterous news broke Tuesday that the suit might seek as much as $100 million in damages, Blumenthal vowed to press on despite serious evidence which brings into question its very merit. The fact that there have been over 50 changes in conference affiliation in the past 10 years - including the Big East expanding FOUR times in the 1990s - apparently escaped Blumenthal's notes. So did news that, believe it or not, every conference has rules in place which allow for the free movement of teams in and out of its confines. But Blumenthal can take all this publicity and turn it into a nice little television package when he decides to seek a higher office. Of course, that never crossed his mind, did it? Surrrrrreeee... Just like it never crossed the mind of Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who held the University of Virginia hostage until he could force Virginia Tech into the mix. Viva La Election Day. - We learned that a good, decent man like Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese can be pushed into making stupid, inflammatory statements while watching the crown jewels of his conference waste little time in bidding him adieu. It was Tranghese, you recall, who told us all the the ACC was going to expand by publicly chastising Swofford back in May. Stay out of my conference, Tranghese said. Swofford, as it turned out, had other ideas. But understand this. Anyone who knows Tranghese will tell you he is a sharp individual who is very good at what he does. Just because he couldn't keep Miami and Virginia Tech in the fold, don't automatically think the Big East is dead. Mike Tranghese is a good commissioner. He just stumbled into a fight he couldn't win. - And finally, we learned that Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski's credibility is at an all-time low. If only anyone would notice. Krzyzewski, who has the national image of a kindly, almost deified bit of hoops royalty, has again proven that in reality he's little more than a selfish, basketball-only Little Napoleon. Not only can Coach K throw around profane words in the manner of Bobby Knight - strangely without all the ESPN coverage - his anti-expansion rhetoric showed him to be little more than a hypocrite. While he was telling national audiences that the ACC needed to remain "geographically sound" to curb travel expenses and the like, he conveniently forgot to mention this: In the last five years, Duke basketball has traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, New York (at least 7 times), Chicago (at least twice), Indianapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Oakland and Anaheim, Calif., and Ann Arbor, Mich. (twice) - all during the regular season Geography didn't matter then, did it Mike? Neither did travel expense. Do us all a favor and go away. Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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