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ACC Football Notebook: Mack Brown not worried about UNC in realignment; New ACCN show coming

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A microphone sits on a table at the Westin in Charlotte, N.C. at ACC Kickoff on July 21, 2022. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown has been around college football quite a long time. He’s been coaching since 1973, and his first stint in Chapel Hill began in 1988.

When he was asked about the latest wave of realignment might impact the Tar Heels, the ACC and all of college football, Brown seemed least concerned with where UNC fits in or might fall into place.

He recalled when he was at Texas about a decade ago, and the school spent a year thinking about whether or not to join the Pac-12. Brown was looking into scheduling and what recruiting advantages that might bring.

“And then one day after a year and a half, it popped up and they said we’re staying. And I wasted so much time and energy worrying about something that never was even going to affect us,” Brown said Thursday at the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte. “So, I’m letting our chancellor and our athletics director deal with all that stuff. If they asked my opinion, I’m going to give it to them.”

Then Brown added: “I’m really not concerned about it, because North Carolina is going to be one of those schools that, if something happened, they would be very valuable to other people.”

Brown is correct. Because of its brand, its success in sports other than football, and because of its pedigree in academics as a member of the Association of American Universities. UNC would also be appetizing to the SEC and Big Ten because it’s in a territory that neither conference is already in.

However, because of the ACC’s grant-of-rights agreement that each school signed in 2013, leaving the conference would be very difficult and costly. Not only would a school looking to leave have to pay a nine-figure exit fee, but they would also forfeit their television rights through 2036, when the conference’s current deal with ESPN expires.

In the meantime, while Brown isn’t worried about the short-term future of UNC or the ACC, he is concerned about the impact realignment might have on all of college football.

“I don’t think it’s best for college football to have two mega conferences and 50 teams. There are so many great programs that will not be able to compete at the same level they are now. And when that happens, their fans are going to be really disappointed and they’re going to lose revenue,” Brown said. “It will hurt football all the way down to FCS to Division II to Division III.”

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi, on the other hand, isn’t really concerned about anything other than Pitt’s football opponents in 2022. Oh, and NIL.

“I’m concerned about Western Michigan, Tennessee, Rhode Island… And I’m going to concern myself with things that I can control. I can’t control what’s going on,” Narduzzi said. “You know, I get more concerned – not with the conferences – but the name image and likeness issues. Where’s that all going? How much worse is it going to be? I think there’s a lot of false promises out there.”

Narduzzi added during his press conference at the ACC Kickoff: “You hear all these things during the summer about the Power 2s and all this stuff. We’ll just start there. You know, we play some darn good football in the ACC, and I think people forget about it.”

ACCN to debut new show; Huddle hits the road

The ACC Network is debuting a new afternoon studio show this fall, “ACC PM.” The show will air for the first time on Aug. 22 and will run from 4-7 p.m. on weekdays. It will be hosted by Mark Packer, who formerly co-hosted the simulcasted “Packer & Durham” radio show with Wes Durham. The show will aim to have a football focus “while also delivering news and commentary from around” the rest of the ACC, according to a release from the network.

In other ACC Network news, its Saturday football show “The ACC Huddle” will travel again this season. The show will air live from Chapel Hill for UNC vs. Florida A&M on Aug. 27, and then from Blacksburg on Sept. 10 when Virginia Tech hosts Boston College. The show returns a team of host Jordan Cornette and analysts Eric Mac Lain, EJ Manuel and Mark Richt.

New coordinators for Clemson

The Tigers had to replace both of their offensive and defensive coordinators this offseason. Longtime defensive guru Brent Venables was hired as the head coach at Oklahoma, and Clemson offensive play-caller Tony Elliott was whisked away by Virginia.

Dabo Swinney looked internally to fill both of the openings, promoting former quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter to offensive coordinator, while making assistant Wes Goodwin defensive coordinator on defense. Goodwin will also coach linebackers.

“It’s not always feasible to promote from within. Sometimes I’ve had to go outside multiple times over my career, but I think it’s best when you can, but it’s got to be the right time, the right fit, and all those boxes checked,” Swinney said. “Easy decision… It’s a lot of fun.”

Former Steelers coach at Cuse

Bob Ligashesky earned a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was the special teams coach under Mike Tomlin from 2007 through 2010.

Now he’s in the ACC, as Syracuse’s special team’s coordinator.

Between stints with the Steelers and Cuse, Ligashesky worked in the NFL with the Broncos, Raiders, Buccaneers and Texans, and then in college with Illinois and Bowling Green. He’s been coaching football since 1985 and has largely been a special teams or tight ends coach at every stop, including when he coached at Pitt from 2000 to 2003.

“I would be remiss if I did not talk about the addition of Bob Ligashesky. Someone that we hired from Bowling Green State University,” Orange coach Dino Babers said. “Handling our special teams… We really feel like that we’re on stable ground and we’re ready to see if we can make one of those jumps or make one of those moves in the ACC Atlantic.”

More quotes and notes

  • Dabo Swinney: I don’t need anybody on a message board to tell me who DJ (Uiagalelei) is… I got a lot of confidence in DJ. He’s got some scars on him, some shrapnel — and that’s going to serve him well.”
  • Uiagalelei, Clemson’s quarterback, says he’s lost weight since last season too.
  • Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman on why he came back for another season: “It’s one of the reasons I came back. It’s a legacy, right? Wake Forest invested in me, and I want to invest back in Wake Forest. I felt like I owed it to them and their belief in me… I wanted to make it right.”
  • Hartman also wore an old-style cap on Wednesday, similar to the one Tommy Shelby sports in the British crime drama “Peaky Blinders.” Hartman said: “It’s a Peaky cap… I like (Shelby’s) attitude and his mentality.”
  • Miami has retired its famous “Turnover Chain.” Here’s what new head coach Mario Cristobal had to say about it: “It is not a shot or form of disrespect to anybody or anyone. Certainly, history is history, and whether it’s positive, whether it’s inconsequential, whatever it may be, it’s still history and part of your program. We’re just moving in a direction that right now doesn’t involve it. That’s really the best way to address it. Let’s put it this way. We’ve been working so hard and paying attention to so many other things that, in my opinion, are much more critical to winning football games and having success that it really hasn’t been a subject or a topic. We won’t be using it. You guys okay with that? We good now? Everybody got the chain stuff?”
  • Brent Pry – the former Penn State defensive coordinator turned Virginia Tech head coach – on the quarterback talent in the ACC: “I think this is a heck of a quarterback league. The film I’ve watched and the literature I’ve read, I don’t know that there’s more depth at that position in any other league in the country. So, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Our scheme is designed to put pressure on the quarterback. We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to change looks and make it hard for the decisionmaker, make it tough on the play caller and the decisionmaker. We’re kind of built that way, but this is a heck of a league for quarterbacks.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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