ACC Football Kickoff Day 1

Ben Harvey takes us through his first day at ACC Football Kickoff

(GREENSBORO N.C.) — As the 43rd ACC Media Day 1 commenced, it was apparent – fast, quick and in a hurry – whose star shined brightest. No doubt, Florida State’s QB and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston was must see TV. However, I digress; more on Winston later.

ACC Commisioner John Swoford-Edit

12:30 p.m. Commencement by the ACC Commissioner John Swoford
After reading the day’s itinerary, I prepared for the usual blah, blah, blah or should I say rah, rah, rah State of the Union speech: All fluff, short on substance. I could not have been more wrong. Swoford wasted little time before addressing the meat and potatoes hot issues of the day.

They included:
• The Big Five (B5) college football conferences are lobbying (demanding) the NCAA for more autonomy.
• Maryland’s lawsuit against the ACC
• Student-Athletes voting voice on the national level

The Big Five
Under the threat of breaking clean from the NCAA, the B5 — SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 (the big money makers) – are unified in demanding more say on NCAA governing issues and rules. Although the NCAA steering commission is still deliberating, Commissioner Swoford confidently stated:

“The good ship status quo has sailed.”

They expect a big change sooner rather than later.

Maryland lawsuit
As we know, the University of Maryland bolted from the ACC to join the Big Ten. Swoford magnanimously expressed gratitude for years of partnership. Moreover, he wished them good luck in their new conference. However, with the lawsuit not settled, Swoford deferred from further commenting other than stating:

“We wish the University of Maryland well, but bylaws are bylaws.”

Translation: “As per our contract, Maryland, you have to pay to leave – $52 million, thank you.”

Student-Athlete voice
My take away:
College Student-Athletes, as we know them, are on the brink of changing forever, no doubt. Swoford acknowledged the player unionization movement sprouting from Northwestern University. However, he forthrightly proclaimed that the following are top agenda issues for the B5:

1. Player compensation (in some form).
2. Having full scholarships that will comply with government regulations.
3. Post-College sports career health care.
4. Players’ likeness issues will be reviewed (NCAA and schools reaping profits from commercially using players’ likeness).
5. Providing players a voice on the national level is in the works.

As he put it: “We are actively discussing these issues, but the devils in the detail.”



Star Gaze – The Jameis Winston Show
1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

During this time-frame, the Student-Athlete representatives mounted the media Merry-Go-Round. The players, divided into three groups, took turns rotating media stations.

Group A – Writers’ interviews
Group B — Radio interviews
Group C – TV/Cable interview

Jameis Winston, in group A, met with the writers first. His table was surrounded by a five row deep throng of reporters. The writers, who asked all the obvious questions (off-field woes), formed a crescent moon around him and his teammate PJ Williams.

Just as Winston is calm, cool and collected in the pocket, he well composed (with charisma) in the storm. He appeared to be a mixture of contrite, humble and confident:

“I must learn from my mistakes and move on with the help of my teammates and Coach Fisher.”

Winston lit up like a Christmas tree when I had a chance to ask him about his community outreach program with former Florida State QB Heisman Laureate Charlie Ward.
He exclaimed:

“There is nothing more rewarding than working with fathers and sons in our workshop. To have a chance to work with 9-year-old boys, just excited to be there, is great. I also got the chance to answer real life questions and mentor them.”

Winston aced the session. However, I give an A+ grade to PJ Williams, who patiently sat, virtually ignored for almost two hours.

Harvey out – stay tuned for Media Day 2: Coach Day.



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