ACC Championship leaves North Carolina due to HB2


On Sept. 15, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced that every neutral site conference championship game would be moved out of North Carolina in response to the HB2 law. The law, which was described by PBS as “the most anti-LGBT law in the United States,” has received widespread criticism and has led to the state of North Carolina losing numerous events from concerts to sporting events. In a statement put out by the ACC, the conference stated that its decision, “reaffirmed our collective commitment to uphold the values of equality, diversity, inclusion, and non-discrimination. We believe North Carolina House Bill 2 is inconsistent with these values, and as a result, we will relocate all neutral-site championships for the 2020-17 academic year.”

This includes the ACC Championship for football. The event was originally supposed to take place at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for the seventh straight year. In last year’s contest between Clemson and UNC, more than 74,000 fans attended, making it the most attended ACC Championship of all-time. For the first time ever, the 2020 ACC Championship got a higher attendance than the 2020 championship for the Southeastern Conference. However, due to the passage of HB2, following the resounding success of last year’s championship game, the ACC is now moving the game out of North Carolina and will find another location to host the game two months from now. Here are some possibilities that have been discussed as potential sites for the 2020 ACC Championship.

Orlando– According to Steven Godfrey of SB Nation, the city most likely to get the ACC Championship is Orlando, Florida. Camping World Stadium, formerly known as the Citrus Bowl, would host the game. Alex Kirshner of SB Nation states that the stadium “is an easy travel destination,” and that, “Camping World Stadium is an undoubtedly suitable venue.” The stadium is scheduled to host three postseason bowl games this season, including the Cure Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, and the Citrus Bowl. The stadium is no stranger to hosting big college football games.

However, choosing Orlando as the host leaves some concerns. For one, the stadium holds 10,000 less spectators than Bank of America Stadium, the original stadium chosen to host the game. Two, there are no ACC teams that play in Orlando, meaning that attendance could be sparse. Whereas six teams in the ACC were less than two hours and 30 minutes away from Charlotte (Virginia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Duke, UNC, and NC State), the closest ACC team to Orlando is the University of Miami, which is three hours and 30 minutes away. Three, Camping World Stadium is already scheduled to host high school football games that weekend, so there is a logistical concern with rescheduling those games or finding another venue to host. Despite those concerns, Orlando seems like the frontrunner to host the ACC Championship.

Jacksonville– Staying in the state of Florida, Jacksonville is another likely candidate to host the ACC Championship. Rick Catlett, the President and CEO of the Jacksonville Sports Council, stated, “We’re interested in all of the NCAA championships as well as the ACC championships. We would be interested and we’ve expressed interest to the ACC about that possibility.” Jacksonville has experience hosting the ACC Championship, as from 2005-07, the game was held at EverBank Field. Additionally, Jacksonville is going to host three college football games this year, including the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly known as the Gator Bowl), the annual game between Florida and Georgia, and the annual game between Notre Dame and Navy.

There are some logistical concerns with Jacksonville, though. The primary tenant of the stadium is the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. The Jaguars have a game on Dec. 4 in the afternoon against the Denver Broncos. The ACC Championship would be played on Dec. 3 at night, meaning that the stadium would have to change in less than 12 hours. That is no small feat. While Jacksonville has experience hosting the ACC Championship, only one game had an attendance higher than 64,000 fans. The 2006 and 2007 ACC Championships were two of the lowest attended games in championship history. There is also a location concern, as the closest team is Florida State, which is approximately two hours and 30 minutes away. While it is a closer location to an ACC school than Orlando, it is a far cry from Charlotte.

Highest Seed– One final option is to play the ACC Championship at the campus of the team with the better record, or the highest seed. This is how many conferences determine the location of their championship game, including the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, and the Mountain West Conference. Unlike the other options, a game at the campus of the higher seed would be almost a guaranteed sellout, and would provide a significant home-field advantage to the school hosting the game.

However, the concerns with playing the game at the highest seed make this option unlikely. Could a school host the ACC Championship on a week’s notice? For some schools, the facility situation means that this possibility is not feasible. For the University of Pittsburgh, which plays their games at Heinz Field, could the stadium host the ACC Championship and then turn around the next day and play host to the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants? For Syracuse University, the basketball program has a home game on Dec. 3 against North Florida. Both the football team and the basketball team play their games at the Carrier Dome. Would that game be able to be moved in enough notice if the Carrier Dome were to host the ACC Championship? Additionally, four of the ACC’s football venues have a capacity of less than 50,000, and half the venues have a capacity of less than 60,000. Could the ACC realistically play a championship game at BB&T Field at Wake Forest, where the stadium holds just 31,500 spectators? It’s unlikely.

Campus Chronicle
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