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July 22, 2013
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- The Atlantic Coast Conference is settling into a period of stability it helped create.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are finally here, Notre Dame is partly in, and Louisville will arrive soon.
So as the league on Sunday held the first of its two-day preseason football extravaganza, it did so with the focus squarely on the field.
"The composition of the long-term membership of the ACC has never been stronger," Commissioner John Swofford said.
That's thanks to the new grant-of-rights agreement that pumped the brakes on realignment, basically locks in the current members and Louisville until 2027, and
"publicly secured our position as one of the nation's premier conferences," Swofford said.
The commissioner said that if Notre Dame ever chooses to place its fiercely independent football program in a league before 2026-27, "that conference by contractual agreement would be the (ACC)."
He also says the basketball-centric ACC has "unlimited potential" in football.
And the league certainly could take steps to realize that potential if its marquee programs perform up to expectations.
Florida State claimed just the ACC's second win in a BCS bowl since the 1999 season when it beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. And the players hope that victory helped answer the nagging question of whether the Seminoles - who won two national titles in the 1990s - are back.
"I don't think we ever really left," receiver Rashad Greene said. "We always came up short here or there, but it's our job to be consistent. As long as we stay consistent throughout the season and have that goal in mind, we'll do just fine."
Virginia Tech has been the preseason pick to win the Coastal Division in seven of eight years since the league split into divisions, and the Hokies will find out Monday - when the ACC's preseason picks are announced - if they were picked to do it again.
And Clemson - and 2012 ACC player of the year Tajh Boyd - knocked off LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in one of the most memorable matchups of last postseason.
If Boyd is feeling any external pressure to follow that one up, he certainly isn't showing it.
He walked into his media session with a beaming smile, and the first question he faced during the Q-and-A came from teammate Spencer Shuey - who talked the QB into serenading the table with a country song.
"The more you start to mature and the older you get, the more important some things are," Boyd said. "This is my fifth year (at Clemson) and it all comes down to five months. So it's all about embracing every opportunity - every practice, every workout, every time we step onto that field. It's all about me just running out there trying to live for the moment and enjoying it."
Syracuse and Pitt made their first appearances at the ACC Kickoff, trading in the annual summertime Rhode Island clambake that was a Big East staple for this visit to central North Carolina.
"A lot of great players, great competition - what more could you ask for?" Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. "All around, everything's just up. Higher stakes."
This will mark the only season in this configuration of the ACC because Maryland is leaving next year for the Big Ten. Louisville is on track to step in for the Terrapins.
Swofford declined to discuss the ongoing legal proceedings between the ACC and Maryland over the roughly $53 million exit fee the league says it is owed.
But the Terps' athletic teams, he said, "in playing their last year in our league, deserve the very best of the ACC, and that's what they will receive."
But quarterback C.J. Brown downplayed the idea that the Terps would try to make some type of farewell statement to the ACC.
"This is the last year we're going to be partaking in the ACC, but we're just excited for the opportunity and we're just going to go out and represent Maryland the best that we can," Brown said. "Hopefully we go out with a bang."
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