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Greensboro, aiming to keep ACC office, wants more men's basketball tournaments, Mayor Nancy Vaughan says

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North Carolina fans during the ACC men’s basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum in March 2020. Greensboro has hosted the ACC’s showcase event 28 times, more than twice any other city.

GREENSBORO — Community leaders’ effort to retain the Atlantic Coast Conference headquarters would please Greensboro residents, says Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who adds that the city wants to continue to be a part of the rotation of sites for the men’s basketball tournament.

Vaughan made her comments during an interview on WSJS’ “The Drive with Josh Graham” on Thursday.

“I don’t want to be too specific in our proposal,” Vaughan told Graham, “but I know that the people of the city of Greensboro would be really proud of the package we put together.”

A decision had been anticipated in the fall but could come at “any minute,” Vaughan said. Charlotte appears to be a strong contender to land the office, if 10 of the ACC’s 15 chancellors or presidents vote to approve a move. Orlando, Fla., has also been part of the process.

The league was founded in 1953 at the Sedgefield Inn in Greensboro, and the city’s 28 times hosting the ACC’s showcase event, the men’s basketball tournament, are more than twice any other city. The league, when fully staffed, employs about 50 people, but its 68-year attachment is a point of significant civic pride for the Gate City.

When the ACC, its board of directors and new commissioner Jim Phillips listed criteria for considering a move in October, one of the items cited “access to a large hub airport with effective accessibility to and from all ACC schools.”

“The airplane hub was a big one,” Vaughan said during the WSJS interview. “And we think that we had a creative solution by offering them personal airplane service. I think they liked that so much that it got shopped to some of the other venues as well.

“They asked us to help on a number of issues, where we came up with out-of-the-box thinking, when it came to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and mental health issues.”

The ACC, a 501©3 non-profit with revenue of $578 million in the most recent fiscal year, owns the 18,358-square-foot building that houses operations on Weybridge Lane. The property, near Grandover Resort off I-85 and about 8 miles southwest of the center of downtown Greensboro, is valued at $2.7 million.

“I think they loved being out at Grandover – it is a great location – but realized that they wanted to be in a place where their employees could go out to lunch or dinner or shop,” Vaughan said. “Ultimately it came down to the fact that they wanted a more downtown presence.”

The Greensboro Coliseum will host a three-weekend basketball bonanza in March 2023, welcoming the ACC women’s tournament, ACC men’s tournament and NCAA men’s tournament first- and second-round games on consecutive weekends.

The ACC has not announced men’s basketball tournament sites past 2024, in Washington. Vaughan is hopeful that the Coliseum will continue to be a part of tournament rotation that has included Charlotte and Washington but also ventured to Brooklyn in 2017, 2018 and 2022.

“We really do put the schools and fans first,” Vaughan told Graham. “They go to other venues, and they’re lost. People don’t even realize that they’re in town. But when they are at the Greensboro Coliseum, they are the event and there is just such a buzz. I know that that is important to them.

“We’re taking a two-pronged approach: Not only do we want them (the league office) to stay here, but we also want to stay in the tournament rotation.”

The ACC and college sports are facing myriad seismic shifts in the landscape. The ACC, directly, faces a revenue gap in its distributions to its schools compared with the nation’s top conferences. SEC athletics departments, for example, received an average distribution of $54.6 million in fiscal 2021 from its league office. ACC schools’ takes reached a record, averaging $36.1 million, but that’s still more than $18 million per school short of the SEC. Shares in the Big Ten Conference ranged from $43.1 million to $49.1 million.

In addition, questions abound about the NCAA’s ability to regulate name, image and likeness and pay-for-play and about whether the College Football Playoff should be expanded.

“The face of college athletics is just changing,” Vaughan said. “And I think that they (the ACC) are trying to react to those changes. Which really makes me think, why put something else on your plate when you’ve got all of these other huge issues that you’ve got to look at. Moving now just doesn’t seem to be the right time.”

Retaining the ACC office and a place in the men’s tournament rotation is not only city business but personal for Vaughan. Her father, Fred Barakat, who died in 2010, was a longtime associate commissioner and worked for the ACC for 28 years.

“This is a conference that I know intimately, that it is more to me than just a business,” she said. “It is something that has literally put the food on the table of my family.”

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