- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The ACC expanded in recent years in the hopes of emerging as one of the nation’s strongest football leagues.

Now, it has a partnership some of the power conferences have long enjoyed.

The ACC will send its champion to the Orange Bowl in Miami unless it is invited to the national championship game, establishing a tie-in similar to those at the Rose Bowl (Big Ten and Pac-10) and Sugar Bowl (SEC). The ACC champ has played in the Orange Bowl in four of the last six seasons.

“Beyond this four-year period of the BCS, there are some question marks,” commissioner John Swofford said yesterday at the league’s football kickoff event. “We may have something similar to what we have now. We may have exactly what we have now. We may have something entirely different. With our league membership, the strength of our football programs and our relationship with the Orange Bowl, I think we’ll be in great shape as a conference regardless of what’s out there.”

The Orange Bowl deal isn’t the only change to the league’s bowl profile. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) will make the first ACC pick after the BCS, followed by the Gator Bowl. In the past, the Gator Bowl selected before the Peach Bowl.

The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., selects after the Gator Bowl. The next three picks will be allocated to the Music City, Meineke Car Care and Emerald bowls. The selection committees from the three games will make requests for a preferred team, and the bowl with the largest payout would win any dispute. The Music City Bowl has the largest payout this year.

The MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, owns the final pick of the ACC. All of the selections are subject to the conference’s one-win rule, which prohibits bowls from selecting a team that finishes more than a game behind another available school in the league standings.

There is also some protection for the loser of the league’s championship game, which is now assured of playing in the Chick-Fil-A, Gator, Champs Sports or Music City bowls if it is not a BCS at-large pick.

In other league matters, it appears likely the football title game will remain in Jacksonville, Fla., through at least 2008. The ACC initially signed a two-year deal with an option for two more seasons, and last year’s inaugural game drew more than 72,000 fans.

“Everything has gone very, very well here in the first year,” Swofford said. “If the game is sold out or close to a sellout, I would fully anticipate the two-year option would be used.”

Note — Maryland’s Paula Infante was named the conference’s female athlete of the year. Infante helped the Terrapins’ field hockey program win the national title last fall. Duke basketball star J.J. Redick was the conference’s male athlete of the year.

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