Dear Commissioner Swofford

March is here.

Let the madness of Dr. Naismith’s game—basketball begin. 

On Tuesday, March 10, the 66th Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament will begin in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I grew up in Burlington about 20 miles away.

I have been to the ACC tournament once.

Back in 2004, my son and I attended the semi-finals and the championship game. A friend, a life long University of Virginia fan, had extra tickets after the Cavaliers lost in the quarterfinals.

I would not trade anything for growing up in Burlington. We were sandwiched between Duke, Carolina, N. C. State, and Wake Forest. I’d watch a game on TV on Saturday afternoon, and then head outside to try to recreate shots I had seen by my favorite players.

My how the game has changed. The players are bigger, faster, more athletic. A 35 second clock has sped up the pace, and the 3-point shot has added an extra dimension.

In 1953, when the league was founded, I’m not sure the creators had any idea how special the ACC tournament would become. Since its inception, the tournament has become a template for other conferences. Additionally, the tournament still remains a hot ticket.

Even though, I haven’t lived in North Carolina since 1975, I still follow the league and the teams. I’m glad that 6 of the 8 original teams remain in the conference. There is part of me that believes the conference didn’t need to fully expand. The quality of the schools and their sports was already in place.

In those expansions especially in 2004, it is clear that geography wasn’t a consideration, and it is also crystal clear that money and branding were factors. Interesting that the ACC was already a successful brand before the decision to expand was made. 

Back in 2004, I wrote Commissioner Swofford, a letter about that round of expansions. I’m sure the Commissioner is a busy man. I guess he didn’t feel like responding to a person who opposed upsizing.

But, as the Commissioner looks forward to the continued branding of the league, I do feel very strongly about one itty-bitty detail— where the ACC tournament is played each year.

Mr. Commissioner, the ACC tournament should only be played in North Carolina. Just to be clear, I said North Carolina—no exceptions.

Nothing could be finer than to be played in North Carolina. 

Greensboro and Charlotte are logical lifetime choices. Too bad that wonderful Canadian  sport takes up a lot of dates in Raleigh, or you could toss the capital city into consideration.

 The conference’s teams outside of North Carolina might complain that their large arenas and cities should have a piece of this economic action for their communities. I get that. But, here is the question— who made the ACC a success before new teams accepted the invitation to join?

 We all know the answer.

Now, Commissioner Swofford, if the conference lured those new teams into the league with a promise that the ACC tournament would periodically take place outside of North Carolina that clearly is a foul—probably a technical foul, or even worse a foul of betrayal. 

How could you a Tar Heel by birth and education even consider allowing the tournament to be played outside of North Carolina? 

Oh, I forgot about that green stuff. Since your tenure as Commissioner started, it is reported that revenues for the ACC have doubled.

I guess revenues are more important than loyalty. 

I hope this year’s ACC tournament in Greensboro is a huge success. 

The next time you and your staff are planning an ACC tournament outside of North Carolina, just keep this name tucked in the back of your mind—Ernest T. Bass.

Being born in North Carolina, I’m sure at some point you watched the Andy Griffith Show. Perhaps, you remember Ernest T. Bass—the rock chucking man from the hills? 

He was basically harmless, but not wired quite right. I hear the ghost of old Ernest T. gets riled up if the ACC tournament isn’t in North Carolina.

Mr. Bass was very good at disrupting Mayberry. I can only imagine how clever he would be at an ACC tournament staged outside of North Carolina.

Mr. Commissioner,  I don’t think your security people want to deal with the ghost of Ernest T. Bass.

Keep the tournament in North Carolina.

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