GREENSBORO, N.C. — We knew we weren’t in Newport, R.I. anymore as soon as the vast Grandover Parkway rounded the bend past stately, golf-course adjoining homes, and came up upon the 12-story, and equally as luxurious Grandover Resort, itself surrounded by a man-made lake and the challenging resort course, but with the ubiquitous ACC signage fitting in perfecting as to not tarnish the brass, gold and leather that adorns the hotel’s lobby upon one’s arrival.
“Welcome to the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff.”
That message, along with the logos of the 14 football schools was everywhere on the property, and it’s a visual that was never seen at the more traditional, New England flavored Hotel Viking, certainly nice in its own right along with all of the stately homes and old money that defines Newport, site of the former Big East football pre-season gathering the last decade.
But the grandiose nature in which ACC conference has taken over this resort for a weekend provided a quick reminder that the move to the ACC is a move to a southern culture of football, and all the events surrounding the actual games being played are taken quite seriously.
Why did you know that this is the sixth time the Grandover Resort hosted this pre-season event? There’s an entire stat sheet on the “Kickoff’s” history dating back to 1976, when for some strange reason, the site is listed as “unknown.”
This summer’s event brought two newcomers for the first time in almost 10 years, and new kids on the block SU and Pitt were welcomed with open arms, including by their new opponents and the large media turnout.
The ‘Cuse had seniors center Macky MacPherson and DL Jay Bromley on hand (the ACC limits each school to two players for the tightly scheduled proceedings) to represent each side of the ball, and from having fun joking around with their new foes before the group player photo session (“Look at how big his shoes are, he could hurt someone,” joked Clemson Heisman Trophy candidate, QB Tajh Boyd to his Tiger teammates in reference to MacPherson’s footwear), to being asked over and over by media members, many with a southern drawl, what’s it feel like culturally for a northern team to join a southern league.
MacPherson, an unheralded high school player who’s worked hard into his final season to earn a spot to be considered for the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, would like the debut ACC season to be one in which the Orange shock college football.
“I think right now while I’m talking to you (the media circling around him) it’d be great to take this conference by surprise, by storm,” MacPherson said with the utmost confidence. “It’s something we want to do, too. We want to go out there, play solid football, play against these guys and really compete for an ACC championship. Then again you’re not going to find a team that says they don’t want to win an ACC championship, so we’d love to come out here, play our best football week-in and week-out and just see where it takes us.”
On Monday, the Orange will find out just how many media members agree or not with the release of the pre-season predictions of the conference standings.