Atlantic Coast Conference, don’t forget Greensboro’s loyalty

The headline in the August 27 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch stung me:  League weighs move of N.C. HQ. 

Translation— new Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner, Jim Phillips, has authorized a study to determine if Greensboro, North Carolina is worthy to continue as headquarters for the conference.

Since the league’s founding in 1953, Greensboro has been the headquarters. During those 68 years, the original founding universities developed a league that became famous for its college basketball. Eventually, the conference’s tournament became just as prominent with other athletic conferences copying its template.

Much has changed since the founding of the conference. Without question, money has driven the conference to expand. Logical geography hasn’t been a part of inducting new schools into the league. Money, market share, and visibility have even pushed the annual tournament to other cities considered to be more glamorous than Greensboro.

With permission, Commissioner Phillips contracted with two consulting teams to conduct what he calls “a holistic and transparent review” of the conference. A study like this cost lots of pennies, and I wonder if included in the review is an assessment to determine if Commissioner Phillips is of sound mind?

Commissioner Phillips certainly presents himself well in sound bytes and print interviews. But perhaps, adjusting to North Carolina’s summer conspirators of heat, humidity, and dew point, or a sip of some unfiltered high octane moonshine warped his thinking.

I grew up in Burlington. I did not graduate from an ACC school. But, from the first basketball shot I took on the dirt court in my backyard, the league’s teams, players, and coaches never left my heart.

Yes, I agree this is a bold move by the commissioner. It is wise to assess daily operations, assets, and to peer into the future. But, suggesting that Greensboro might not be the best fit for future growth is irresponsible. I guess Bentonville, Arkansas hasn’t been a good fit for Walmart.

Change is always a challenge. No one wants to be pushed out of his/her comfort zone. And while the goal might be to keep these assessments neutral from an emotional stand point, that isn’t possible. Why? People. 

Since 1953, the people of Greensboro have put their hearts and souls into collaboratively constructing with conference leaders a successful league. That history, legacy, hospitality, work ethic,  and support ought to count for something. If these attributes are not taken into fair consideration with the evaluation teams, then their findings will be pointless.

Instead of focusing these assessments on media opportunities, alignment with Fortune companies, corporate sponsorships, branding, and making more money, why not use the studies to help solve challenges the league faces? 

For example, how could the medical schools in the league conduct research to reduce injuries for all athletes? How might athletic directors find ways to reduce the impact of powerful alumni? How could university leaders work to insure that coaches apply integrity and honor in recruiting and developing relationships with student athletes? How can travel costs be reduced?

Perhaps Commissioner Phillips knows of the Wieners Circle, a hotdog stand, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  While their charbroiled hot dogs are delicious, customers also seem to enjoy the sometimes snarky attitude of their employees, and the profane quirkiness of the messages on the restaurant’s marquee.

What does the Wieners Circle have to do with the ACC?

Truthfully, nothing, except for one critical ingredient—people.

Since 1983, despite snarky employees, and a wacky marquee, people keep coming back to the Wieners Circle—why?

 The answer is grounded in their location, a quality product, and management that understands the pulse of the people they serve.

Comparably, Greensboro is an ideal geographic location, the city offers quality support, and without question the city’s intelligent, visionary, and loyal people have sustained the ACC through a wide range of challenges.

In our fast paced, impatient world, loyalty is often overlooked. In this process, Greensboro’s loyalty can’t be overlooked.

Commissioner Phillips, I hope your heart understands loyalty.

If you need any help in grasping loyalty, you might consider consulting with Bass, Campbell, Fife, Lawson, Pyle, and Taylor in Mt. Airy. They know quite a bit about loyalty.

Commissioner Phillips, leaders are supposed to look forward into the future. It is tough, necessary work.

In doing this work, it is also necessary to understand the heart, the pulse of Greensboro. Greensboro’s heart has always been loyal to the ACC.

The real question is whether your heart believes in Greensboro’s loyalty.

Photo supplied by Bill Pike

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