At least there's no TEAL seats in Tampa

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On paper, the ACC title game was actually a wonderful idea a few years ago.

Separate Florida State and Miami, let them drill everyone else, then let them play as top-10 foes for a second time at a neutral field in the Sunshine State.

Believe me, it made sense. That’s what was supposed to happen, with maybe a party-crasher arriving every other year.

Well, this is third straight year without either Florida school to anchor the game. And based on this (from the Roanoke Times via Yahoo), Virginia Tech fans aren’t eager to pack up the family SUV and head down to Florida for the third time in a little more than a year.

Moreover, the Official Dot-Com Diva reported yesterday Virginia Tech and Boston College have combined to sell 5,000 of their allotted 20,000 seats at Raymond James Stadium.

In short, it could look really, really bad in Tampa.

At least there are no TEAL seats like there were in Jacksonville, which were especially unfriendly for television. As someone who was there, I can assure it didn’t look good in person, either.

But there was every reason to think Tampa might be a little different. There’s a little more to do than in Jacksonville, and the ACC really did commit to making things a great celebration of the conference. The cheapest tickets are $25, which is actually a pretty impressive value given what some schools charge for middling regular-season games.

But everything broke wrong. The economy, certainly, is a big thing. A rematch between two schools a long way from Tampa is another.

You can set your watch to commissioner John Swofford talking about expanding the league’s “geographic footprint” when he discusses the effects of expansion earlier this decade. But like it or not, North Carolina remains the epicenter of the conference.

That’s why 2010 and 2011 – when the league title game moves on to Charlotte – can’t come quick enough.

It’s no knock on Tampa, which did a heck of a job hosting the ACC basketball tournament in 2007. But that’s an event with 50 years of tradition behind it, and a weekend-long basketball festival is a better sell than matching 9-3 and 8-4 division winners.

If the title game was in Charlotte, Virginia Tech would bring a horde of fans out of the hills of the Old Dominion. Boston College would barely bring anyone, but that’s no surprise since it is a small school, has quite a ways to go and had a small party of fans at last year’s title game.

Instead, there will probably be a rather anemic crowd, and the title game (which prompted months of planning from people in the conference and Tampa) will take another perception hit.

But at least the blimp overhead won’t display a sea of TEAL in the process.

Patrick Stevens

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