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Black [and Gold, and Blue] Jax

The bright Monday morning Jacksonville sun sent shafts of light slicing through the early-morning mist. Those out early on the Landing stopped to marvel at the combination of light and shadow that danced over the St. John ’s River . Upon closer examination, however, they discovered that this was not caused by fog coming from the river; it was generated by steam coming from the heads of Gator Bowl officials.

Wake Forest topped off its rags-to-riches football season by knocking off Georgia Tech and capturing the ACC football championship. For the ACC, it was an unmerciful end to a riches-to-rags football season. The improbable rise of the Deacs made for a great story, one that was almost completely knocked out of the Jax papers by the financial bath taken by the event-sponsoring Gator Bowl.

Geez, there were a lot of empty seats in Alltel Stadium. In case anybody had asked, the answer to the question ‘What if they gave a conference championship and nobody came?’ is now available. Jax officials were fuming and not shy about expressing their disappointment at the low amounts of revenue generated in return for the large amounts of cash they had laid out to the ACC for the ‘right’ to host this game. The feel-good nature of Wake’s magical season was sure lost on them.

Saturday’s game also provided insight as to why Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich had spent so much time and energy attempting to lock in a suitable bowl for the Jackets in the event they lost to Wake. Dealin’ Dan has the prescience of Nostradamus.

To add insult to injury, Dealin’ Dan’s machinations paid off, as the Gator was coerced into forfeiting all of those hotel reservations made by Clemson fans and instead book a return engagement with GT. It is to be expected and understood that fans of the Jackets, who did make a decent showing in Jax [Little Johnny- you might want to make sure next time that the team that actually brings a few fans is seated opposite the television cameras- the stadium then at least won’t look so empty], might be reluctant to come back a month later.

Even another halftime contest of a guy giving his best Reggie Ball impression might not lure them back [the Dr. Pepper people not telling that guy until after he was through that the big bucks were paid by tossing the football through the hole, not giving an outstanding impression of Ball sure saved the corporation a bunch of money].

It was not the best of weekends for ACC commish Little Johnny Swofford. After spending much time listening to griping from the Jax hosts, he was moved to action. Little Johnny announced that next year Duke will play an unprecedented sixteen-game conference season, eight games each against Virginia Tech and Clemson. The NCAA was expected to quickly approve a sixteen-game season for Duke after being told how much red ink would be flowing out of the Orange Bowl on New Year’s.

The ACC boss moved to further assuage Jacksonville people who basically said, ‘If you want us to keep hosting this game you had better not send us Wake again.’ Little Johnny decreed that if any revenue-sharing money were left over after the conference bought all of Georgia Tech’s unsold Gator tickets, it would go into a fund to be paid to any school who would hire Jim Grobe away from Wake. The supporting vote by league ADs, was expected to be 12-0; even Wake’s Ron Wellman would vote in favor after checking the books to see what Wake’s football success was doing to the revenue-sharing largess upon which the Deacs, more than any ACC athletics department, were dependent.

The Gator did move to sell a few bowl seats by inviting West Virginia to play the Yellow Jackets. The Cousins will hold another family reunion in Jacksonville , provided they all aren’t off on couch-burning forays in Alabama . They will gather on the Landing, gaze upon the wide expanse of the St. John’s and exclaim, ‘Hiram, look at the size of that toilet.’

The ACC’s other bowl bids were handed out Sunday night. As expected, the Chicken Bowl got the plum, Virginia Tech vs. Georgia . Tech AD jimmy followed up his acceptance of the bid by announcing that Tech had sold its entire ticket allotment. That certainly made him unique among the ACC bosses.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen ended his team’s two-year bowl hiatus by begging his fans to buy tickets to the Champs. We shall see how the marketing slogan of ‘If you want to stay out of Boise in the future you had better buy tickets to this game’ works with the Terps’ faithful.

Clemson, which had been expecting a Gator bid unless they were not, found the latter to be the case as they dropped to the Music City Bowl in Nashville. It is a great trip, Tigers. Put aside your irritation and attend, as you will have a good time.

The ‘Why Bother’ Bowl in San Fran gets Florida State. The numbers of Noles knocking around the Golden Gate two days after Christmas will exceed only the fan support the Canes will demonstrate in Boise. Snicker.

The ACC’s biggest bowl loser was the Muffler Bowl in Charlotte. Foisting Fredo off on the bankers for the second time in three years is perhaps not the brightest thing to do, especially if Jax jettisons the ACC championship game and Little Johnny finds himself begging Charlotte to take it.

The guys that run the hometown Bank of America Stadium weren’t all that keen on having the ACCCG when it was up for bids. Getting stuck with Fredo, again, will not boost their enthusiasm levels. Fredo is back in Charlotte because NCAA bowl rules governing 6-6 teams meant the Muffler had to take him. As usual, Fredo was the last ACC team chosen, this time because of not only FSU and Miami not having enough wins, but Carolina and State, both at 3-9, were not bowl eligible. Even the NCAA wouldn’t go that far.

It could have been worse for Charlotte. Much worse would have been not planning ahead back in August and locking up Navy, which should bring a few Middies. If they had stuck with the Li’l E, they would have been staring at a Fredo-Cincy bowl. Yikes!

And so the ACC staggers to the end of this lost football season, lost for everybody but the handful of people wearing Black and Gold, at least. Of the league’s eight bowl partners, only one is happy at its lot in bowl life. There still seem to be a few kinks yet to be worked out in the ACC’s grand football dream.

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