Who should host the ACC football championship game?

Ahhhhh. The warmth of spring is upon us with the dog days of summer just around the corner. These sunny days remind me so much of the ACC Football Championship game in Charlotte.

(Needle scratch sounds on a vinyl record).

OK, maybe not.

There was much debating the appropriate location of the football title game after the chilly night in Charlotte and I’ve seen that debate pop up on message boards even as Old Man Winter has gone into hibernation.

The main points of contention focused on climate and then a combination of geography and matchups. Let’s break them down .... after the jump.

Weather

   The average high in Charlotte on Dec. 3 is 57, the average low is 37. There has never been a day in history when Charlotte didn’t get above freezing on Dec. 3. The record minimum high is 36 F in 1971 – on that day Charlotte received a rare 7-inch snowfall. How rare? In Charlotte recorded weather history, 8 of the first 11 days of the month of December show a dusting or less of snow … EVER. The chances of measureable snow on an early December day in Charlotte are higher than  1 in 100.

   The lowest temperature ever recorded in Charlotte on Dec. 3 was 20 degrees – 50 years ago. Not exactly frostbite material.

   December is the second driest month of the year in Charlotte, averaging 3.18 inches of total precip.

   BOTTOM LINE: Yes, the weather was nasty in Charlotte last year and yes, it COULD be again. But the typical conditions to expect are game time temperatures in the 40s or 50s with no precipitation. And if the pendulum swings toward warmer than normal conditions, we could easily see very mild game-time temperatures in the 50s or 60s.

Geography

   There has been a lot of back and forth about whether the better weather offered by Florida venues is enough to offset any downside in geography/proximity.

   Folks have claimed that poor attendance at some of the Florida games was solely based on poor matchups.

   Rather than look at the small sample size of games played, I decided to break down every possible ACC title game matchup – all 36 of them.

   I grouped them in four camps: Clear advantage Florida (for the purposes of this exercise, I had Tampa in mind); Slight advantage Florida; Clear advantage NC (for our purposes, Charlotte); slight advantage NC and toss-up. Tossup could either mean that the attendance was going to suck at either location or that it would likely be a no-brainer sellout at either location.

   A game in the "clear advantage" column would not necessarily be a sellout, but, in my view, would see significantly higher attendance in one location than the other.

   (IMPORTANT NOTE: This entire piece is looking at the issue from the LEAGUE’S point of view, not an FSU point of view. It goes without saying that it would be better for FSU to have the game played in Florida)

   Here is the list:

Clear advantage Fla.

BC-UM

FSU-Duke

FSU-Uva

FSU-UM

Wake-UM

 

Clear advantage NC

BC-Duke

BC-UNC

BC-VT

Clemson-Duke

Clemson-UNC

Clemson-UVA

Clemson-VT

NCSU-Duke

NCSU-UNC

NCSU-UVA

NCSU-VT

NCSU-GT

NSCU-UM

Md.-Duke

Md.- UNC

Md.-UVA

Md- VT

Wake-Duke

Wake-UNC

Wake-UVA

Wake-VT

Wake-GT

 

Lean Fla.

Md.-UM (1)

FSU-GT 

 

Lean NC

BC-Uva

Md-GT

Clemson-GT (2)

 

No advantage OR likely sellout in either location

FSU-VT (3)

BC-GT (4)

FSU-UNC

Clemson-UM

 

First, comments on specific games denoted by number.

(1)    Md.-UM (leans Fla.): One might think this is automatic for the "clear advantage Florida" column, but this is a key blow against the argument to hold the game in Tampa – there is really only one Florida team that travels well enough to make a difference – FSU. While Miami will probably send more fans to Tampa than Maryland will to Charlotte, it won’t be a blowout.

(2)    Clemson-GT (lean NC) Neither team is located in N.C. … but Charlotte would have a strong chance to have higher attendance for this game.

(3)    FSU-VT (sellout either location) Even with last year’s crappy weather, this game sold out. This and the prior game discussed reveal the power of  two schools in this equation – Clemson and VT. Both travel VERY well and, added to the four N.C. schools, already close to Charlotte, mean that half the league’s teams are essentially within "sellout" proximity to Charlotte.

(4)    BC-GT (no advantage) This game just sucks and will be a disaster for the league even if they play the game on the moon.

 

You may disagree with some of these, but I think it’s very clear that, on average, attendance stands to be higher at a Charlotte championship game than a Florida game.

Now, I can already hear some of you howling: "But you should be looking at the MOST LIKELY matchups, not Wake vs. Duke." Well, the problem with that is that four of the six Atlantic conference teams have made title games and the two Coastal Division teams that have made the title game (VT and GT) are both more likely to end up in a North Carolina column than a Florida column.

Plus, I think it’s a dangerous game for a league to start talking about locating their title game based on "most likely" teams to compete. We’re still waiting on the FSU-Miami title game that was supposed to make the ACC the talk of the nation.

The other argument is that it gives the N.C. teams an unfair advantage. Well, it gives them an advantage, but the game has to be SOMEWHERE. Why is it any better for the ACC to hold it in Florida and give FSU/UM an advantage? Charlotte is a geographical mid-point for the league, just like Atlanta is for the SEC (and I don’t hear whining that their game should be moved because it’s an advantage for Georgia).

Finally, I’d like to offer a strong argument against the idea that one of the division winners hosts the title game.

Here are my main arguments against this idea:

1)      Schedule inequity: I presume the idea is that there are a series of tiebreakers to be used to determine who hosts the game. All of these, though, will eventually tie back to schedule strength, which we know is widely disparate throughout the country. Even competition within a conference division can swing wildly from year to year. We could easily be faced with a situation where the league’s best team, doesn’t meet the tiebreaker criteria and the league ends up losing a national title contender because it has to play a road game.

2)      Weather: If you don’t like Charlotte as the title game host, then you should REALLY be against this plan. Charlottesville, Blacksburg, College Park and Boston are all north of Charlotte and would bring a higher chance of colder, more wintry weather.

3)      Fan reward: A title game is a chance for a fan  base to see their team play for a championship. Under this plan, that is essentially denied to one of the team’s fans.

4)      Travel/logistics: It’s one thing to head to a major city for a major sporting event. But … Blacksburg? Winston-Salem? Think about it. Every team’s fans thinks "this is the year" and that if we go to this plan they will be watching the game in their own stadium. But more likely, that won’t happen and the game will end up being played in a smallish stadium in a less-than-glitzy city or town.

Now, having said ALL this. I think the dome in Atlanta would obviously be the best location for the ACC title game. But, that venue is currently taken. (I don’t know if holding it on a Sunday is possible --  would have to work with the NFL to make sure the Falcons are out of town and don’t know if they can "turn around" the stadium in one day after the SEC title game).

Bottom line: Holding the ACC Championship game in Charlotte is the best option right now for the league. Charlotte offers an acceptable climate and is centrally located to maximize the opportunity for a highly attended title game.

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