Swofford "disappointed" ACC-SEC rivalry games won't happen in 2020

by - Staff Writer -

ACC commissioner John Swofford made his first public comments Friday since the SEC’s call to go conference-only on its 2020 schedule.

The move canceled the longest, continuous non-conference football rivalry with Clemson-South Carolina this year. They joined the Big Ten and PAC-12 in that type of schedule, while the Big 12 is yet to make a decision and has games scheduled for Aug. 29.

“Well, I was disappointed. But I would quickly add that I think that’s the SEC’s decision to make,” Swofford said to the ACC Network’s Packer and Durham show. “We took a different route as a conference and we were and are very comfortable with that route. We took a path that would have allowed those games to happen. So, those rivalry games that you were speaking of are huge in the Southeast and huge in those respective states and really, really big nationally from that standpoint as well. You hate to see those disrupted.”

Swofford maintained that the big conferences had stayed in good communication despite reaching differing conclusions along the way.

“But each conference ultimately has to do what they believe is in their best interest. The (Autonomous) Five conferences have tried to stay on the same path on this,” he said. “I’m not surprised that we didn’t end up at exactly the same place. We’re ending up in similar places but not exactly the same place. And that’s OK. The communication has been excellent. (SEC commissioner) Greg (Sankey) and I speak often, as we speak with the other conference as well. It took them a good while for them to be comfortable to make a decision just as it did us. Some of us wanted to wait a little longer than others in order to have more information when we tried to finalize a decision and the Big Ten and the PAC-12 went a little earlier.

“But we’re all dealing with the same set of circumstances in a sense. My disappointment isn’t really a criticism of the SEC, but it’s just a disappointment that those are quality games that from our standpoint could have been played but now will not be played.”

Swofford said that, as of Friday, he believes the ACC schools will be able to fill the non-conference spot and that they are “down the road” on overall schedule dates and hope to have them “sooner rather than later.”

“Yes, it appears so at this point in time,” Swofford said on the non-conference game. “I just had a conversation earlier this morning actually in regard to that question you were asking. Yes, I think all of our schools are on track to have their one non-conference game that would be played either at home or in the home state of our respective institution.”

The ACC, like many conferences nationwide, has taken its time in making a call while monitoring the latest with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons for paring down the schedule by a game and moving back the ACC Championship to Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 is for flexibility surrounding the pandemic.

"Understanding that the landscape was changing with the seriousness of the virus," Swofford said. "And how long it may last and so forth -- and we're still in that situation, quite frankly. We felt like we were to a point where we were comfortable with how we wanted to address it if we are able to play. We know our path forward if we're able to play this fall. We also understand we will need to be nimble and there may be starts and backups so to speak...In certain weeks of the schedule, there could be certain teams that are unable to play for a week or two along the way. I think this schedule with how it's structured gives us flexibility to deal with those kinds of situations once we start the season.

"We know we're going to have to be nimble. We know there's no perfect solution to this. But I think we're well-equipped to move ahead with the path that we're comfortable with and is right out there in front of us and adjust along the way if we need to adjust...We have two open dates for each team and we will schedule in a way that gives us flexibility at the end if we need to adjust and when we need to play the ACC Football Championship Game."

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