They call John Swofford the ninja because of how he “moves quickly and quietly, and by the time his enemies -- or, in his case, business rivals -- realize he's struck, it's already too late.”
That might have been the case when it came to conference realignment and solidifying the financial future of the ACC. But when it came to making a forward-thinking statement in regards to the backwards-thinking HB2 bill in North Carolina, Swofford has been more like a outmatched and outdated infantryman, unwilling to commit to any kind of battleplan. Swofford seemed to be waiting for one of two things to happen, either for the bill to be overturned or for someone to tell him what to do.
North Carolina would not oblige him so the NCAA finally came around and did it. The NCAA announced Monday that all seven future championships scheduled in North Carolina, including NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in Greensboro, will be relocated so long as HB2 remains on the books.
While the ruling does not change all of the upcoming ACC post-season events schedule in North Carolina, it certainly affects the conference. Chiefly, it affects Duke and North Carolina, neither of whom can count on that annual home court advantage they usually get in the NCAA Tournament any longer.
But more importantly, the NCAA just called Swofford’s bluff and now it’s on him to move all of the conference’s post-season events, including the ACC Football Championship Game, or be forced to publicly acknowledge why he is unwilling to do what the rest of college athletics is.
Remember, it’s not just the NCAA. The NBA also pulled the All-Star Game out of North Carolina because of the discriminatory bill.
Swofford said in August that "We don't want to damage our league with any premature decisions.” Well, Swofford has now damaged the league by not making an appropriate decision at the right time. A statement released Monday attempting to make it sound like the league was going to take action at an upcoming meeting reeks of PR face-saving.
John Swofford statement on HB2... pic.twitter.com/39ulP9CuUk— David Hale (@DavidHaleESPN) September 13, 2016
Whatever the league does, it’s too late. But it still has to do something.
They probably won’t. Syracuse fans can recognize when a conference is overly-loyal to one place and the ACC is loyal to North Carolina the way the old Big East was loyal to Providence. The latter was a large part of why the league folded and while the ACC isn’t in danger of that, it’s loyalties are going to keep it on the wrong side of the argument here.
I’m sure Swofford will release another carefully-worded and vague statement in the coming days as pressure mounts. Other than that, I don’t expect much.