Good morning. Thanks for being here today. It’s now my pleasure to introduce the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, John Swofford.
COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: Thank you, and welcome to all of you, and there are many of you, to the 2016 ACC Football Kickoff.
This is a remarkable time for the Atlantic Coast Conference, the strength of our schools, our sports, our coaches, our players and our fans is at an all-time high. We’re very, very well-positioned for the future.
This strength has been evident on the field and in the classroom throughout our history as a conference, and most specifically with our current 15 member institutions.
This group continues to lead the way academically, and you know every year I start with this because it’s important to us. By almost any measure among our peer conferences, for the ninth straight year our league had the best average ranking among FBS conferences in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, 81 league teams, the most of our peer conferences, received Academic Progress Rate awards from the NCAA. Our programs achieved an NCAA graduation success rate of 88.9 percent, nearly six points above the national average.
Transitioning to competition. There’s not nearly enough time to detail all of the competitive successes that our student-athletes, our coaches and our programs have achieved. But here are a few highlights.
As one reporter who has covered this league for decades recently noted, and I quote, The ACC is reveling in the best football stretch in its history and is positioned to sustain that prominence.
I couldn’t agree more.
With the best record among our peer conferences in New Year’s six bowls and the College Football Playoffs, Florida’s national title in 2013, four straight Orange Bowl wins and 31 teams participating in bowls over the last three seasons, I think that we can all agree that what ACC football teams have accomplished has truly elevated our league.
In addition, our successes in men’s basketball has rarely been disputed. That has certainly been the case over the last two years. Over this time our programs have won a national title and played for another, won 36 NCAA tournament games, more than any other two conferences combined, and set an NCAA single-season record with 19 tournament wins this past March.
On the women’s side, we’ve had programs compete in the national championship game in each of the last three years. 29 teams in post-season play over that same span.
As has always been a point of pride in our conference, our schools continue to prioritize broad-based programs that provide opportunities to more than 10,000 student-athletes. This clearly has paid dividends as our programs have captured 10 national championships over the past two years, five in each year, across nine different sports.
Also of significance over the past two years, we had an additional 12 national champion runners-up. I’ve tried to articulate the successes off the field and on the field that this league is enjoying. But now let us show you.
COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: Some of you may be disappointed that I’m not going to be able to do the dance that I’ve done the last couple of years, dancing around some questions about television. Yes, after years of discussions and rumors, I’m pleased in the company of our presidents, athletic directors, and a cross-section of the finest coaches in the country to announce a new media agreement with ESPN that extends through 2035/36.
Also I could not be more pleased to stand before you today and say that this new agreement will include the launch of the ACC Network and the ACC Network Extra.
The ACC Network, our linear channel, will join the ESPN family of networks and will annually feature 450 live events, including 40 football games, more than 150 men’s and women’s basketball games, and more than 250 other events.
As we thought about our media future, it was important to us that we take advantage of an emerging distribution technology. ESPN’s leadership position in this space will benefit all of our sponsored sports.
The ACC Network Extra will be a premier, authenticated digital channel. Initially it will be available to over 90 million subscribers via the WatchESPN app, and it will have the flexibility to live on other digital platforms that may be offered in the future by ESPN as technology continues to evolve.
ACC Extra will broadcast 600 live games in year one. That number will grow to over 900 live events by 2019. Combined, this will mean over 1300 ACC events ultimately televised on an annual basis through one of these platforms.
This exposure will be in addition to all of our existing programming that is currently televised across ESPN networks. ACC Extra will launch this fall as we continue to work toward the launch of the linear ACC Network by August of 2019.
As part of our new network agreement, we will move to 20 lead basketball games in 2019, coinciding with the launch of the linear channel.
It was also very important to both ESPN and our league that we try to create a model in which each of the ACC’s 27 sponsored sports would be televised in some manner. I don’t know if we’ll get them all, as some are extremely difficult to produce for television, but by 2019, we’re going to be very close.
Delivering this content to our fans, alums and student-athletes, as well as their families and friends, was a driving force in our discussion. We know that cumulatively ACC football and men’s basketball regularly generates more viewers on an annual basis for ESPN than any other conference.
Having fans that follow our schools and our conference at this level is a very positive indicator, I think, of the overall popularity of our content.
The ACC syndicated network on Raycom will continue until the launch of the linear ACC Network on ESPN in 2019. On the digital side, the ACC Digital Network will continue its service to ACC fans and our schools with highlights, news, features and other programming complementing the live rights initiatives of ACC Extra and putting the ACC at the forefront of digital video in college athletics.
There’s no question that these new agreements with ESPN competitively position the Atlantic Coast Conference for the long-term, both from a financial perspective and from a programming content.
It’s an understatement to say that ESPN is a leading provider in sports content. We appreciate their understanding of the value of the ACC’s programming and the vibrant markets throughout our current footprint, as well as their commitment to this league, and their desire to enhance our long-standing partnership with this agreement, which I think most definitely provides tremendous growth opportunities for both parties.
At this time I’d like to introduce my good friend and a long-time partner, a great leader, a gentleman, who grew up just down the street in Lexington, North Carolina, the esteemed president of ESPN, John Skipper.
JOHN SKIPPER: Thank you very much. Good morning.
It is not possible to create enduring business relationships without human relationships. I am fortunate to have in John Swofford an outstanding partner and a good friend. Thank you, John.
The ACC is fortunate to have such a creative, smart and perservering commissioner. I want to thank you, John, your staff, your athletic directors, your presidents, your coaches. I had a chance to meet most of these guys last night, so thank you. And your staff, of course.
It is also not possible for me to create such a partnership without the efforts, creative thinking and talent of my colleagues at ESPN. I need to cite Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming. Burke could not be with us today because he is with his son making college visits. It is a tradition at ESPN that when we launch a conference network, one son or daughter of an important executive is actually indentured to one of your schools for four years. That’s a joke (laughter).
My son matriculated at Vanderbilt very successfully. I have to tell you Ron was just a couple days ago at Clemson, so you guys can have it out. It is a commitment to send one of our sons and daughters.
I would like to recognize two people who are here today who are quite critical in getting this deal done. Stephanie Druley, promoted just this week to senior vice president, events and studio production. Stephanie just a couple years ago was a student at the University of Texas. She went home to produce and launch the Longhorn Network for us and will be instrumental in our work for us.
Rosalyn Durant is our senior vice president of programming, college networks. Rosalyn and I have a lot of fun because Rosalyn went to the second greatest Carolina, which I understand is right down the road in Columbia which is in the other Carolina state. Also meant to be lighthearted. I love and respect our neighbor state.
I am very fortunate to work with people as talented and wonderful as Stephanie and Rosalyn.
I would be remiss if I did not thank John Wildhack, who is a 36-year veteran of ESPN, a Hall of Famer, and who will be returning to his alma mater Syracuse next month as the new athletic director.
While I’m having some fun with this, I intend for this to help you understand how much we love college sports at ESPN.
I am proud that last year we produced and distributed 1500 women’s college basketball games. We understand personally how much college sports matter to their fans. I am literally, as John mentioned, a Tar Heel born and bred. There are no sports loyalties more important than a fan’s loyalty to his or her alma mater, or simply to their adopted college team.
Wolf Pack Nation, the Denizens of Death Valley, Cameron Crazies, you all know what that is. That is why the ACC Network will be a triumph, because of the passion and commitment of its fans.
We at ESPN are proud to be the ACC’s partner. We commit to creating and producing content of the highest order for your millions of fans to entertain and entrance them. We will create value for our distributors, an effective platform for our advertisers, financial benefit for ESPN and the ACC.
The network will shine a spotlight on all of our 27 sports and your thousands of student-athletes.
I have complete confidence in our ability to launch this network with national distribution and to create a significant asset for ESPN and a superlative showcase for the ACC.
COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: ESPN certainly has a long-term track record of progressive thinking and success. We’re tremendously pleased with our partnership, and enhancing that partnership.
There have been a number of people at ESPN. John introduced a few of them, who have spent a lot of time working behind the scenes for this deal for literally the past two years. On behalf of all of us at the conference and our member schools, I’d like to say thank you to Burke Magnus, Rosalyn Durant for leading the ESPN team on this project, and also to those at ESPN who contributed to this effort at various stages along the way.
John mentioned John Wildhack. My story is he likes this deal so much that he decided to join the conference as the new athletic director of Syracuse. Justin Connolly and Sean Breen, for their distribution expertise. Bill Geist from finance, Dan Margulis and Staci McCollum for their programming insights, Stephanie Druley, the guru on all things production, and last but certainly not least, Dave Mayer, who is ESPN’s lead attorney on the deal.
As I noted at the start of this press conference, the ACC’s membership is second to none. A large part of that success is due to the outstanding leadership we have at our member schools. The presidents, athletic directors, administrators and coaches at our schools have consistently demonstrated their commitment to each other and to this league.
That is most evident in our new Grant of Rights signed by all 15 schools that is in effect for the duration of our agreement with ESPN.
I’d like to acknowledge our athletic directors, our faculty athletic representatives and the Council of Presidents. A number of those folks are in attendance today. For their work in reaching this, I think it is fair to say, monumental agreement.
Throughout our history, the ACC Council of Presidents has steered us well. I want to especially recognize Donna Shalala, the former president of the University of Miami. Randy Woodson, the chancellor at North Carolina State university. And Jim Clements, president of Clemson University. As the most recent chairs over the past two-plus years of the Council of Presidents. The leadership of each of them has been vital in bringing this decision to fruition.
At this time I’d like to introduce this year’s chair of the Council of Presidents, a dynamic leader, and the president of Clemson University, Jim Clements.
JIM CLEMENTS: Thank you, John. Good morning.
I’m proud to be here representing the Atlantic Coast Conference as the chair of the Council of Presidents. Although I might be a little bit biased, I believe that this is the strongest collection of institutions in the entire nation.
The conference is led by an impressive group of presidents, chancellors, faculty members, athletic directors, administrators and coaches.
As leaders among higher education, the ACC strives to represent all that is good within college athletics. As John mentioned earlier, year in and year out, the ACC is the strongest academic conference among our peers by numerous metrics.
Looking ahead to the immediate and long-term future, the ACC Network will provide incredible benefits to our universities and our student-athletes. This is a monumental time for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and it speaks volumes that this agreement, along with the Grant of Rights, was supported unanimously by the ACC Council of Presidents.
Throughout this entire process, my league colleagues and I were kept up to date by the tremendous work of the athletic directors. The ADs steer their respective athletic departments with a keen vision and a steady hand.
In closing, I’d like to thank ESPN and John Skipper, and I’d like to commend Commissioner John Swofford for his tireless efforts in leading us to this point and for opening up a new horizon for our student-athletes, coaches and institutions.
COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: In addition to the leadership of our presidents, our ADs are the practitioners, the day-to-day leaders of our athletic departments. We’re fortunate in this conference to have a group of the finest ADs in the country, without question.
Their leadership and the success of the departments they oversee is a key component to our enhanced partnership with ESPN. Each one of these outstanding individuals was critical to this process. It was this group, along with our TV consultant, Wasserman’s Dean Jordan, who I believe is the best in the business, and with Evan Appell, our legal counsel, that lead us to this historic moment for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Stan Wilcox of Florida State has been outstanding in the past year as the chair of our ADs during the final stages of these negotiations.
I want to specifically recognize our TV subcommittee. Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock, North Carolina’s Bubba Cunningham, Clemson’s Dan Radakovich, and the chair of our television committee, vice president and director of athletics at Duke University, Kevin White.
Kevin deserves extra pay. He’s been the chair of the television committee for five years. That was at my personal request because I felt we needed his kind of knowledge and leadership to bring continuity to this process as we brought it to conclusion.
He has been, in a word, superb.
KEVIN WHITE: Good morning, everybody. It is an honor to be here. I was provided a script. Of course, without understanding fully who constructed the script, I worry about plagiarism. So I’ve thought about moving off the script, but that would be painful for all of you because I would probably speak for much longer than the time I’ve been allotted.
Let me say a few things and then I’ll try to stay to the script.
Not unlike everybody that’s spoken before me, it’s really a privilege to represent my constituency, which are the athletic directors in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So on behalf of the athletic directors, thanks to all members of the media for being present this morning and for what’s happened here.
This is not just a milestone. This is historic. This is a great moment for the Atlantic Coast Conference. I know I speak for all of my fellow ADs when I say we couldn’t be more pleased to be here today at this particular moment.
Today’s announcement highlights the quality of the ACC at its been already talked about, its student-athletes, its coaches, its programs and institutions. We think we have a very unique blend of academic and athletic. The mix within our conference, it’s unique. We think it’s the best academic performing conference in the country. In addition to that, we’re really good on game day. Really good. There’s an awful lot to talk about.
I commend my colleagues for their thoughtfulness and insight as we’ve navigated through this process through the past few years.
What can we say about the ESPN? Everybody in the room knows it’s not even arguable, the best in the business. They’ve got the best CEO in the business.
John Swofford noted Dean Jordan. We’ve been so well-served by a tremendous TV consultant that we wouldn’t be at this position without Dean.
Finally let me just say this. We are so blessed to have the very best commissioner in college athletics in John Swofford leading the way forward.
These are very challenging times. We’re meeting the challenges head on within the Atlantic Coast Conference. We’ve just created a wonderful opportunity with this partnership. We would not be here today without John Swofford’s leadership.
COMMISSIONER SWOFFORD: As I’ve already stated, I couldn’t be more pleased to be before you today announcing this new long-term agreement with ESPN. This partnership I think is a testament to the value of our conference, the content we provide, and the fans that enthusiastically follow us. Believe me, we appreciate that.
We’ve got great reason and many reasons to look forward to the future because we know it improves our financial security, it elevates our exposure, and it enhances our brand.
Now, I know there will be questions. In an effort to get through as many as possible and provide access to all of today’s speakers and coaches, we’ll have a media availability near the stage momentarily.
But before we do that, as you can see on stage, and I mentioned earlier, we have an outstanding group of coaches representing our 15 schools and a cross-section of our 27 sponsored sports.
We did have a number of men’s basketball coaches that wanted to be in attendance. With the final recruiting period starting yesterday, they are doing what they should be doing and what they do very, very well, and that is recruiting.
I have no doubt the next two days will be exciting as we preview what’s sure to be an excellent season for Atlantic Coast Conference football. We’re on a great run in football. We have every intention of keeping it going.
Thank you for being with us. We appreciate your coverage of our league in any respect. If there’s anything you need in your time here over the next day and a half, make sure our staff knows what that is, and we’ll make every effort to accommodate you.
Thanks for being with us.