GREENSBORO, Ga. -- Despite lacking a presence on a national scale, commissioner John Swofford adamantly defends the caliber of ACC football.
In three years, expansion has provided the league greater depth, led to a widespread increase in talent and created substantially more competitive match-ups.
But in the state-of-the-conference address Tuesday to conclude the ACC Football Kickoff, Swofford and league officials pointed to the one component where football envy still lingers: the championship game.
With three years of title contests under its belt, the ACC admits its championship pales in stature to those of the other major conferences.
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Thus, ACC fans can expect to be inundated this year with promotional efforts aimed at stimulating increased interest.
"We're trying to build our championship to be relevant to everyone involved," said Michael Kelly, associate commissioner for football operations.
It was evident Tuesday that the ACC blamed part of its championship problem on location.
Jacksonville, Fla., has served as host all three years, with the game played at the 77,497-seat Alltel Stadium.
Two years ago, the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest final sold 62,850 tickets but did not draw nearly that many. Attendance for last year's Boston College-Virginia Tech championship was announced at 53,212, but a halftime aerial blimp shot embarrassingly showed more than half of the stadium to be empty.
With its contract with Jacksonville expiring, the ACC examined bids from Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte before giving those cities two-year trials (Tampa in 2008-09, Charlotte in 2010-11).
The league has constructed an advertising campaign around the slogan "The Road to Tampa Bay" while trumpeting the city's ability to host major events such as the NCAA women's basketball Final Four and the 2009 Super Bowl.
Plus, Raymond James Stadium seats only 65,857, making it far likelier for a sellout and an improved game-day atmosphere. The lowest ticket price will be $25, whereas the cheapest ticket in Jacksonville as $60.
"I think that's a real bonus for us as we continue to build the game," Swofford said.
While the SEC championship is entrenched in Atlanta, Swofford said it remains to be seen whether the ACC wants to find a permanent title game home or rotate sites. A rotation has worked well for the Big 12, Swofford said.
"We have to find out what works best for us," Swofford said.
On the BCS front, Swofford, who has started a second term overseeing the Bowl Championship Series, said it figures to be at least six years before there is a chance the plus-one model for a playoff could be implemented.
The BCS' television deal with FOX expires in two years, and negotiations on reaching a four-year TV deal -- and thus locking in the current format through 2014 -- should be done by Christmas.
Furthermore, Swofford said the majority of the school presidents from the 11 conferences "have a certain comfort level" with the current format and do not favor change.
Swofford hinted that there were a number of ACC presidents interested in exploring a playoff, but the swifter-than-expected opposition from other conferences (Pac-10, Big Ten) precluded both the ACC and SEC from ever having a formal vote.
"One of the challenges of the BCS is that it must be a unanimous consensus-builder," Swofford said.