ACC newcomers Syracuse, Pitt meet the press
In previous years, Syracuse University offensive lineman Macky MacPherson would have been at a location somewhere up North if he had been chosen to represent the Orange’s football team at a preseason media day.
That was because Syracuse was a member of the Big East. But that changed on July 1 when the Orange joined the ACC. So, MacPherson and defensive lineman Jay Bromley were two of the four new kids on the block at the ACC’s preseason football kickoff Sunday at the Grandover Resort. The others were wide receiver Devin Street and defensive lineman Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh, which also left the Big East on July 1.
“It’s kind of like your birthday,” MacPherson said. “It’s different but you don’t feel any different.”
Right now, the only difference MacPherson has noticed is the cultural one between the Snow Belt and Tobacco Road.
“I was born and raised in Syracuse so there have been a few things that have been a culture shock to me,” MacPherson said on Sunday. “You know, holding the door open and some lady calls you sweetie. That’s something you don’t see here in New York. And of course, sweet tea. I like my tea unsweet. That’s apparently some sort of mortal sin. But, it’s been an interesting ride so far.”
The ride will be different when the Orange and the Panthers start playing league games.
“The tempo is going to be a little faster,” Street said. “That’s going to be the biggest difference. Not only at the skill positions but at all positions.”
Pitt will get a full dose of how good the league’s better teams are when it opens with defending conference champ Florida State on Sept. 2. That looms as a tall order for a program that went 6-7 last season but showed that it can play with the ACC’s upper echelon when it upset Virginia Tech.
The other wins came against Gardner-Webb, Buffalo, Temple, Rutgers and South Florida.
“We have to come out and prove that we can hang,” Street said. “It’s a prestigious conference, a better conference and we have to go out there and prove that we can compete.”
The new surroundings may have confused Bromley, who sounded as if he were talking more about the Southeastern Conference than the ACC as he spoke about his new league.
“The first thing I think about is tradition,” Bromley said. “Football is king down South. It goes back a long time when I think of these schools and I respect that. But, tradition won’t win you football games. You’ve got to go out there and do the work.”
Syracuse, with Jim Brown and Donovan McNabb among its past greats, has a football tradition more impressive than some ACC institutions. But, the magnitude of the switch wasn’t lost on Bromley.
“Changing conferences is a big deal,” Bromley said. “When you do that, it’s for a long time. Going into my senior year, I’m looking forward to setting the bar high for my teammates so they can one day be considered on the same level with the Clemsons and Florida States.”
The Orange, coming off an 8-5 campaign which it capped by pounding West Virginia 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl, will find out just how close it is to the level of league power Clemson when it opens conference play by hosting the Tigers on Oct. 5 after four nonconference games. They will get to stack up against the Seminoles on Nov. 16.
“The biggest thing about the switch is the competition,” Bromley said. “At the end of the day that’s what we players have. We don’t have a part in anything except the competition and getting to go against some of the best players in the country. It’s not every day you get to go against (Clemson quarterback and All-America candidate) Tajh Boyd or Florida State with all the great athletes they’ve got.”
With the addition of the two schools boosting the number of league football programs to 14, some of the tradition that Bromley talked about has gone the way of VCRs.
Schools play eight league games, resulting in some of the original members not playing each other every year as they did back in the day when the league’s membership was nine or fewer.
North Carolina doesn’t play Clemson or Wake Forest this season. N.C. State doesn’t face Virginia. Wake Forest doesn’t see the Cavaliers in addition to the Tar Heels.
During his state of the league press conference, Swofford said the feeling among league members was assuring league stability through expansion outweighed the ability of teams to play former rivals. Swofford didn’t offer much in the way of real news. He said he is interested in an increase in the money that each student-athlete is allowed but isn’t in favor of the idea put forth by SEC football and basketball coaches of paying student-athletes $300 per month.
“I’m not in favor of paying players,” Swofford said.
Swofford is in favor of scholarships paying all of an athletes cost of attending college, or paying them something additional based on need or paying them more of a stipend.
He also noted the possibility of legal issues with such things as Title IX, which requires equality for women’s sports.
He also said that the announcement of locations for future ACC championship games should be made about the time of this season’s contest in Charlotte on Dec. 7 in Charlotte.
That’s the trip Syracuse and Pittsburgh are most interested in making.