Posted on: January 2, 2009 12:13 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2009 1:36 pm

Don't let six losses fool you, ACC is rising

Fans of bowl season like to make a fuss over the strength of a conference. The Big Ten stinks. The SEC rocks. Why does J. Darin Darst love the Mountain West Conference oh, so much?

The ACC is not immune to such generalization, particularly when six of the 10 teams chalked up losses this bowl season. So what if Wake Forest, Maryland, Florida State and Virginia Tech all won? So what if the Hokies won a BCS game, their first in program history?

This is America where majority rules and six beats four. The ACC is just the Big Ten with an East Coast attitude.

Not so fast. If I'm a gambling man, I put big money on the ACC reversing those numbers next season. I say six wins, four losses. The year after that? Maybe eight wins, two losses. I say this because I look at the teams that won and I look at the teams that lost.

I see the winners and I see experience. Not with the players, but with the coaches. I see Bobby Bowden, he of 33 years in Tallahassee. I see Frank Beamer, he of 23 years in Blacksburg. And I see Ralph Friedgen and Jim Grobe, each head coaches in their respective towns since 2001.

I look at the losers and I see coaches rebuilding programs (Miami, UNC and N.C. State). I see coaches working to instill their philosophy in Boston College and Georgia Tech. And I see one bowl-losing program with a soon-to-be full-time coach in Clemson. All these schools, with all these issues all made it to bowl games. All, except Georgia Tech, came close to winning. All have bright futures.

The glass isn't just half full, it's going to overflow soon. The ACC is a sleeping giant, not a basketball conference masquerading as a made-for-football conference. This is a buy low opportunity for football fans.

Virginia Tech, Thursday night's Orange Bowl winner, featured 18 players with eligibility among its 22 starters. Miami was littered with freshman playing prominent roles, and the program led the country in touchdowns scored by first-year players. Its offense made big strides.  You going to bet against Butch Davis in Chapel Hill? Tom O'Brien with a massive state school athletic budget? Even Duke seems to be hell bent on maximizing what it can do with its football program.

But that's not the entire picture. You can't talk college football without talking money. Revenue for the conference increased 44.5 percent from $110.6 million in pre-expansion 2003-'04 to $159.8 million in 2006-'07, according to the Sports Business Journal. Recently, football finally passed basketball as the top moneymaker for the conference. Each school has seen their conference checks rise 7.5 percent since realignment. Virginia Tech, SBJ reports, pulled in $12 million in 2006-07, which is nearly double what it received in its final year in the Big East. Georgia Tech's Dan Radakovich tells the publication:

"The ACC does have a basketball reputation and a generation of people who have grown up with ACC basketball. While some of the new teams that came in might not have had great basketball histories, they've brought a lot of other things to the table ... sure, the ACC has taken some hits, but it has increased payouts which was the hope when it was done."

That's the kicker -- increased payouts. More money means better-funded programs, means more successful programs. The ACC is leaving its growing pains stage. It's maturing into a decent football conference and soon its product will likely surpass the Big Ten's. Don't believe me? Wait until the new TV deal for the conference is struck. There are two years left on the current deal, which pays the ACC $37 million annually. The Big Ten has a deal with ESPN that pays the conference $60 million annually. But as the ACC matures, and with TV suits seeing markets in Boston, Washington, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami, a bigger deal just may be in the works.

Until then, the haters will speak of six losses, a lackluster Orange Bowl and vanilla programs in Charlottesville and College Park. But history will look at this era as one in transition -- a basketball power conference evolving into a balanced superconference. It took some lumps, but the future is only bright for the ACC. Just ask Frank Beamer, whose uber-successful Virginia Tech program can now claim a BCS win to its fame:

"People get tied up in this a little bit. We (the ACC) had the best non-conference record against opponents ever. When you play in this league every week you realize how good it's going to be. Most of the teams have a chance to get better too. If you play enough games the ACC is going to come out with their share of wins, and BCS wins."

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Posted on: December 31, 2008 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2008 1:18 pm

This Bud's for being a head coach, if it fits

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When it comes to potential job openings, Bud Foster has earned the right to refer to himself in the third person.

"You know, like I said, I've got a good job, great job, and I've looked at some jobs that I think would be right for me, for Bud Foster, and Bud Foster would be right for those programs," Bud Foster said at Monday's Orange Bowl press conference.

But Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator, undoubtedly one of the best in the country, isn't ready to just jump ship to any puncBud Fosterh and Judy program.

"The right one hasn't worked out," Foster continues, "but I don't lose any sleep over those things. I really don't. I don't cry at home, 'boy, I wish I got that job.' I don't. I've got a great job. It's a win-win all the way around, so I'm fortunate that way. Not everybody has been as fortunate in this profession as I have been, and I'm blessed with that."

Foster has been blessed. Virginia Tech, coming off back-to-back ACC titles and making its second straight trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl, is a hotbed for defensive talent. Defense and special teams are the hallmark of head coach Frank Beamer's 23 seasons in Blacksburg, and Foster has been the man installing the philosophy to young defenders.

It's a noble task, one that's paid dividends as Virginia Tech has, with uncanny ability, almost always stayed in the upper echelon of programs during the Beamer-Foster defense-first regime. But that same duty often goes unnoticed by job-seeking ADs. Virginia flirted with Foster a few years back when it had an opening. Clemson teased him again this year. His name has been linked to a few other jobs, all of which never panned out. Could there be a defensive coach bias in the college ranks? In the NFL, defensive minds reign supreme. Of the playoff teams, only four of the 12 teams feature coaches from the offensive side of the ball (Eagles, Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals). But colleges seem to look for offensive minds to run the show.

Why is that, coach?

"I don't know why that is," Foster says. "I don't know why there's an emphasis on hiring an offensive guy, if they think they're more organized or whatnot. We're pretty organized defensive guys. We run our own ship too, so to speak. I know defenses win championships. They always talk about offense puts fans in the stands and those type of things, but hey, we can hire good people, too, out there."Bud Foster

He can also coach up good players. Players like defensive back Victor "Macho" Harris, the team's defensive leader.

"You know, the coaches do a great job of putting us in great position to make plays," Harris said. "Coach Foster does anyway. That's all I'm doing, doing what I'm coached to do. Fifteen career picks, that's pretty decent, but all the thanks go to the coaches and the players."

Virginia Tech's defense has never ranked below fourth in its conference under Foster. It's finished No. 1 in the country twice and tops in its conference five times. He's pumped out NFL players from DeAngelo Hall to Brandon Flowers to Xavier Adibi. Harris is soon to be on that list. Foster is 49 now, which again, is around that age coaches either get the gig of a lifetime or continue down the road of coordinator guru for life.

So when some more jobs open up this winter, there's a good chance Foster's name will be tied to them. And there's an even better chance he'll take one, but only if it's that right job.

"I may not get my chance as a head coach, but I think you get guys -- you get to a certain point when you've achieved to a certain level, you've reached a certain level, you expect a certain level; I don't feel like I need to take a step back again to get back here, and it's kind of maybe in my mind I don't feel like I need to take a 1-AA job to show I can be a head football coach."

In a world full of high-profile, prima donna coaches, it's refreshing to hear Bud Foster talk about himself as a person who's simply happy where he is in life.

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