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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 28, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining today's call. We're going to get started here pretty quickly with opening statements. But I did want to mention that a transcript from today's call will be provided by ASAP Sports shortly after the conclusion of this call finishing.
The way we'll plan the structure is we'll take opening statements from the four Commissioners, and then we'll proceed with a Q & A portion, and get to as many of your questions as we can. It's my pleasure to introduce ACC Commissioner John Swofford, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, and CAA Commissioner Joe D'Antonio. We'll start with Commissioner Swofford.
JOHN SWOFFORD: Amy, thank you. Thank you, everybody for being on the call. First of all, I want to take a moment on behalf of all of us to acknowledge the passing of Pat Summitt. Pat was an icon as we all know, an unbelievable contributor and credit to the game of basketball. An extraordinary person and coach who had an immeasurable, I think, impact on not only women's basketball but the game itself in every way. And most importantly she inspired a lot of us and certainly influenced a lot of young lives in a very, very positive way.
Moving on to today's announcement, the formation of this men's basketball officiating alliance allows our conferences these four conferences, the ability to collaborate in ways that should greatly benefit our players, coaches, officials and the sport of basketball.
John Cahill and Bryan Kersey are incredibly well respected and will manage the alliance on behalf of all four conferences. With the two of them working in concert, we expect it to benefit all four conferences and realize an increase in the level of officiating in every way.
I think having the ability to enhance training, development, recruitment, and feedback to our basketball officials is essential to our game. And I want to thank Val and her team as well as Bernie and Joey for their partnership. I believe this is a win-win, win-win for all four leagues, each of which in their own right are really high-quality basketball conferences. So we're very pleased to have this alliance and this association with these three other excellent conferences.
The alliance will provide greater efficiencies for game assignments for recruitment and for retention. It should increase the officials assignment pool for all of our conferences. It will take advantage of geographic scheduling efficiencies for the officials, which is very important. It will stabilize a joint staff under collaborative management and oversight. It will provide enhanced training, education, and evaluation opportunities, and it will enhance technology capabilities to improve our officiating data and staff feedback.
As I mentioned, the Big East and ACC supervisors will work jointly to create a comprehensive training program for officials. The program will consist of regularly scheduled training meetings, ongoing communication among our officials in the four conferences, and alliance-wide meetings as well.
Each conference will be responsible for evaluating officials in their respective games, evaluations will be compiled and shared by the supervisors for the alliance use in connection with training as well as future assignments. Conferences will identify, recruit, and retain respective officials on behalf and to the benefit of the alliance and supervisors will together actively seek to attract prospects to officiate in this alliance.
In addition, our coordinators and supervisors will collaborate to create a consistent agenda, curriculum and presentations for all preseason meetings and summer and preseason camps. So that should enhance the communication and the consistency of the communication for all concerned. Lastly, I would mention that we developed in the ACC office a pretty sophisticated command center that we have utilized and in the past have utilized it with the A-10 and CAA and will certainly now be sharing that with the Big East and our two coordinators in particular, and feel that this further use of technology in the command center can add to all of the things I mentioned above.
So in closing, I also want to thank Paul Brazeau and Stu Jackson in particular for their hard work on this. As I said, we're extremely excited about the two gentlemen, the two coordinators that will be day-to-day on this alliance with the four conferences. We expect, based on their experiences and their tremendous integrity, that they have and the high esteem in which they are held that they'll do an outstanding job coordinating this.
So with that, let me turn it over to Val Ackerman, the Commissioner of the Big East Conference. Val.
VAL ACKERMAN: Thanks very much, John, and thanks to everybody for joining us today. John was eloquent at the top, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also express the sense of loss that all of us have with the news about Pat who was well known to all of us, particularly those of us who are working women's basketball. It's a very sad day.
But like John, I'm very excited to be able to add the Big East team to this announcement. Some of you who followed us, we have a history of being independent as far as the management and officiating goes, and we did feel that this was the right time and the right group of conferences to have an affiliation with.
I want to acknowledge John as well as Bernie McGlade and Joe D'Antonio for their willingness to be part of all of this, and we, of course, look forward to working with these three conferences on this efforts.
As John noted, we too see many benefits in this alliance. On top of our lists are the sensible scheduling that we think will result from the collaboration on assignments and importantly our hope that will lead to a reduction, in particular, in late season wear and tear on our referees, the ones working our games. We also see a great opportunity here for more effective training and evaluation of the officials that we have and find ways to develop them to be even better at their jobs.
And importantly we think this opens the door to enhanced capacity to build a pipeline that will help keep all of our programs at a high level as we look to the future.
We also think this will help us have more effective communication, particularly with the NCAA and J.D. Collins. J.D., of course entering his second year as national coordinator of officials and in a short period of time he has made great strides in bringing greater consistency and accountability to college basketball officiating, and we look forward to working with J.D. as he continues to aspire to that goal.
I want to thank John and Paul Brazeau from his staff for their help in structuring this and working closely with Stu Jackson from the Big East. I also want to recognize John Cahill who had served as the Big East supervisor of officials since our reconfiguration in 2013.
Some of you may know John spent 30 years as an NCAA referee. His career included 11 Final Fours and few know more of the ins and outs of the profession than John does. So we're very excited of his leadership, the leadership that he's delivered to the Big East will be able to benefit three additional conferences.
And we know that he and Bryan Kersey who, himself, has had a very distinguished career on the floor. We think the two of them will make a great team in managing this new alliance and contributing to the development of officiating across the NCAA.
In short, we see lots of benefits with John, and we're very proud to be in business, so to speak, with three great leagues. We very much look forward to using this set of relationships to help bring consistency and accountability in an even bigger way to officiating, not only in our league, but hopefully we can make a contribution to the growth of officiating across the NCAA.
So with that, I will stop, and Bernie who is with me here in Indianapolis, I'll ask you to make some comments as well.
BERNADETTE McGLADE: Yes, in opening, I certainly want to express my condolences for the loss of Pat. Certainly having been a former women's basketball coach and working with Pat closely as chair of the selection committee, I have a unique perspective. But as Val said, it's sad day and hopefully we'll all carry on her passion for this great game, which is a great segue to this announcement today.
I think unquestionably the announcement demonstrates great collaboration and great leadership on behalf of the commissioners that are on this call.
I have to say thank you to John. The A-10 has been fortunate to be partnered with the ACC for past two years, and also working in conjunction with the CAA and certainly having the Big East in this alliance is a tremendous step forward, and I think a step that is going to certainly pay dividends and benefit not only each of our programs who we work so closely with and so passionately with in regards to our student-athletes, the quality of our men's basketball programs and the quality of men's basketball nationally. But also the opportunity to be able to really efficiently be able to recruit, evaluate, assign, and really make a difference in quality of life, so to speak, when we can manage scheduling and assignments for the officials that work incredibly hard and travel incredibly tremendous number of miles throughout the year.
So this opportunity, this alliance has the potential to really be a benchmark across the country, and I think it's something that is going to be beneficial for everyone involved.
Certainly I've had the opportunity to watch and know the work of John Cahill and certainly for Bryan and their leadership I think is going to be really a hallmark of this whole alliance because they're not only respected from obviously the commissioners right now, but also by the coaches, by the student-athletes, and by the men's basketball world of officiating. So I think there is a tremendous upside and potential for all involved.
Again, I have to certainly extend my thanks to all the work from the folks at the ACC office, the Big East office, the Colonial that have put this alliance together. Certainly want to acknowledge Jay DeFruscio on my staff who works with men's basketball and really does Yeoman's work in the area of our officiating program, and I think we're ready to be a great partner.
I would just thank John and Val and Joey, and look forward to a really great future. So I will pass it over to Joey D.
JOE D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Bernie, I appreciate that. And I too would like to echo the comments of my colleagues in expressing my condolences to the summit family on the passing of Pat Summitt, certainly a pioneer in the basketball world, and on behalf of all of our institutions in the CAA, again, we offer our condolences to the Summitt family.
As it relates to our announcement today, certainly the CAA is extremely excited to continue what has been a long-standing relationship with the ACC and also with the A-10 and be part of the newly formed alliance with the Big East Conference. I personally had an opportunity to work very closely with John Cahill in my former role in the Big East. John is a pro's pro, and we're very fortunate as the CAA to be aligned with somebody within the officiating industry that has John's knowledge and experience. I've also had an opportunity recently to get to know Bryan, and certainly are very excited to be working alongside Bryan as we begin this new initiative.
I think we all certainly know that as a result of today's announcement, the game of college basketball, the institutions of our four conferences, the coaches, the officials, and most importantly our student-athletes stand to benefit from the implementation of this collaborative initiative. This is a positive step in the right direction as it relates to men's basketball officiating, and we are privileged and honored to be a part of it.
I too would like to thank John, Val, Bernie, and the staffs from each of those three conferences for their efforts in helping to bring this to fruition, and we're looking forward to being a positive partner in the alliance. Thank you for the opportunity to be on today's call.
THE MODERATOR: It's time to open it up for our question-and-answer portion of the teleconference.
Q. I was hoping one of the commissioners could just walk us through how the officiating assignments work in terms of will there be a pecking order of what league gets what officials or will all the officials in the alliance be available to work all the league's games?
VAL ACKERMAN: Well, this is Val. The answer to the second question is yes. All officials that are going to be part of the pool, so to speak, that will be assigned will be available to work all games. Historically certain officials have worked more extensively for some conferences over others, and part of that has to do with geography. But I think one of the benefits of this affiliation is it will enable because of the good geography that all of our conferences share, the ability to rotate officials at all levels in a way that will benefit all conferences.
So just by way of example, you could have a scenario where a referee could work at the College of Charleston and then move up the coast to work at The University of Virginia and then move over and work a game in Georgetown and then work at GW, kind of all in a fell swoop in a way that would be efficient and sensible from a travel perspective that at the end of the day will ultimately make for a more rested referee who would be in a position to do the kind of job that all of us would be expecting our referees to do.
So I think being from the Big East, I think that's really one of the significant benefits of that is the ability to lineup geography in a way that will allow all the conferences to benefit from the, by the way, very strong referees that are being brought together through this and that way everyone wins.
JOHN SWOFFORD: And I would reiterate what Val said, the geographic footprint is not exactly perfect, but in today's world of conferences, it's very, very good. I think we all know, anybody that follows college basketball and pays attention and cares about the officiating aspect of it, we all know the travel for the officials can be brutal at times, and we think this will really help that to the benefit of everybody. Not only the officials but the games themselves and our coaches and players and fans.
I think one of the things too that's a real plus in terms of the assignment of the officials is the relationship that already exists within this alliance of the four conferences. But also in particular the relationship that John and Bryan have developed over the years. That's a longstanding relationship.
Bryan is coming off the floor, and this will be his first year as a coordinator, but he brings a wealth of experience. And John has been on the floor for many years while Bryan was on the floor. And over the last three has done a great job as a coordinator at the Big East. And those two and the relationship they already have will serve this extremely well.
BERNADETTE McGLADE: I would just add one other thing, to answer the first part of your question. Especially when days where there are multiple games from multiple leagues being played, this is where the expertise of Bryan and John will really make this alliance work because they will be able to make those assignment decisions, again, based on many factors when they assign men's basketball officiating from not only the game, where the game's being played, the number of times an official has seen a particular team or is scheduled to see a particular team in the future. But I think that's where the beauty and the strength of this will lie in the experience of these two top-notch coordinators.
Q. Bernie, you mentioned and each of your colleagues also used the word efficient or efficiency improving the working conditions for the referees. In the last two years as you collaborated with the ACC, did you see and experience, did you feel like a late-season wear and tear that Val referenced had diminished somewhat and you found more-rested, efficient refereeing crews coming to your games?
BERNADETTE McGLADE: Yeah, I would have to say absolutely, and I think our coaches and administrative and student-athletes were able to see it too. And I think the beauty now of this larger alliance is the fact that there is more inventory of games so that the assignments can be made in a way that really does benefit the officials, but it's going to benefit all of our teams. Just seeing it play out with three conferences of the ACC, Colonial and A-10, I think it's only going to take a marked step forward by having another set of inventory in the very same footprint. We'll really see benefits come February.
Q. I wonder if I could sneak one into John. John, does this alliance in adding the Big East, is the timing even more fortuitous just given the rules changes that were implemented last season as college basketball tries to improve the freedom of movement so to speak and the other changes?
JOHN SWOFFORD: That's a good point, actually. Because I think the more interaction we can have, by we, the various conferences, the more consistency, the more consistency that should come out of that. And this allows us that much more in terms of communication with each other which hopefully leads to more consistency on the floor, more consistency in interpretations and so forth.
When I hired Paul Brazeau two years ago and Paul has a wealth of experience in this area, in the interview process, one of the conversations I had with him was a desire to broaden what we were doing from an officiating standpoint to try to find ways to be more efficient in it, particularly from a travel standpoint for the officials to make things more and more attractive for us to have the benefit of the best officials on the floor.
So these discussions have been going on for several years. And I think you're seeing more and more of this across the country, actually, and I think that's a good thing. So with a lot of people's help, we were able to take a concept of growing what we had already started and broaden it, and broaden it with a terrific partner in the Big East.
Q. Bernadette, I was wondering what you think this alliance means for college basketball in general?
BERNADETTE McGLADE: I think I'll just refer back to my opening statement. I think it's a great collaborative effort bringing two assigners together, bringing multiple conferences together. I think it's going to be -- I think it will stand the test of time and it will be used as a model to be able to not only continue to build and improve our current officiating pool, which is very, very good, but also to really broaden the pool. You know, we talk about succession and who in 10 years are going to be the next set of officials that are going to be working the Final Fours. And that's a process. That's a strategic process. It's a process where individuals have to get experience. They have to be able to call excellent caliber, Division I games to be able to move through their careers to be able to call the highest level of game that gets to the Final Four.
So I think it's going to be incredibly important, and I think it will be a significant model. But will be benchmarked by other leagues and probably most likely by the NCAA.
VAL ACKERMAN: This is Val Ackermann, I want to add one note to the writers on the call. That is if you're tracking what's been happening in college basketball officiating, there has been a movement over the past several years towards consolidation. The days of having one conference with one assigner and then another conference with its own assigner are more in the past than in the future.
While our conference, as I mentioned in my comments has been "standing alone" really since the inception of the Big East, directionally this does appear to be, where if you're going to write it, largely, college basketball is headed. For all the same reasons I think you would hear, if you were to talk to other alliances around the country.
So that to me is worth noting. Whether how that works in the future, I think remains to be seen. But, again, I think that we're with a terrific group, and I think the kind of benefits that you see with what John and Bernie and Joey and the CAA had before we entered the picture and what you see elsewhere are very much within reach for this new configuration here, and I think in some respects it's simply a sign of the times.
Q. John and Val, what inspired exactly this alliance? Did it come from the officials who were concerned about the travel or did it come from coaches or administrators like yourself who were also concerned about that? Just how did all this begin and how did you get it going?
JOHN SWOFFORD: Well, I think it really came from the desire of both conferences to collaborate more and a belief that conceptually more collaboration in the area of basketball officiating was a good thing. Then beyond that in terms of the geographic footprint and the great history and tradition of the ACC and the Big East have had for so many years, you put all that together, and I think it was a natural conclusion.
So I think we were probably initially on the same track, and we've got some people in our respective offices that have worked together in the past and have excellent relationships that are particularly tied to basketball, Paul and Steve in particular. Then you have John and Bryan. And Val went to the University of Virginia, and she and I have known each other for a long time.
So I think there are a lot of elements there, but I think it gets back to an agreement on the concept of more collaboration and the geography and the relationships.
VAL ACKERMAN: I'll add only on the points John made that from where we sat, we, as it turns out, have a significant overlap anyway with the ACC in terms of the officials that have historically and more recently been used for our games than theirs. And the idea of kind of bringing that together made a great deal of sense. And the idea that we could by bringing it together more sensibly schedule their assignments, and then, again, adding to that by having the A-10, what they bring, and the CAA, what they bring, and now all that lines up geographically made so much sense.
So from our standpoint it was that coupled again with the geography and then what we saw as a very high level of comparability in terms of how this kind of thing is going to rest on the people that are managing this and their ability to work together and think things out collaboratively and act collaboratively. And we felt with this group we had a great fit.
JOHN SWOFFORD: The only thing I would add is the ACC also had the experience of a collaboration with the A-10 and the Colonial, and we had experienced that and it had gone very well from our perspective. So we were very open to expanding it and making it even better.
Q. Is there a sense that historically referees have worked too many games and do you think that this particular alliance may pair that number of games down a little bit?
BERNADETTE McGLADE: I'll just throw in my two cents and let everyone else go. I think that certainly the comment has been made. It's been made in the public domain that our men's basketball officials or any officials for that matter are working too many games. But I think the answer to that question is that officials work a single game in a day, and the capacity for any individual official can be different across the board.
I think at the end of the day that's where a great alliance like this and great leadership in our coordinators of John and Bryan, and then also secondary follow-up with the administrators in each of the offices. The truth is really in the evaluation and performance of how those officials perform on the floor. It's their livelihood just as we all have our jobs and our livelihood.
It's, I think, not unusual to think that officials are going to work a high number of games during the basketball season as their livelihoods demand it and that's when the season ends. I would say I don't know that this alliance would reduce any of the number of games that an official would work. But I think it will absolutely help in the efficiency of scheduling, and it will minimize the wear and tear on the high-level of officiating that we assume in our games by being able to efficiently manage the travel, the scheduling and the assignments that they receive and where they will be going during the cold winter months of January, February and March.
JOE D'ANTONIO: I'll use the old analogy of quality, not necessarily maybe over quantity, but equal to quantity. And I don't really think it's a matter of a situation where officials are working too many games. It's a matter of are they working a number of games and having a quality performance during those games? And certainly I think from the comments that we've heard here this afternoon as it relates to what this alliance can bring to the table from an efficiency standpoint, that allowing officials to work the maximum number of games they can work in a quality environment and a quality setting with two professionals assigning or giving out the assignments to make sure they're maximizing the opportunities to have quality assignments, I think certainly is the goal that we're all reaching for.
So I don't really know if it's a question of officials working too many games. But this is a situation that certainly allows them to work the maximum number of games that they can work in a very high-level, quality environment.
VAL ACKERMAN: I would just add they are independent contractors so there is no, and would be no, attempt to restrict the number of games they work. That's really in some respects their choice that will be honored. But again, not to rehash this, but if you think about the abilities here of enabling a referee in a four- or five- or whatever-day span, I'll use the northern example to balance out my southern example. You could have because of this relationship in a strategic way you could have a referee do an Eastern game and then a Providence game, and a BC game and a UMASS game without getting on an airplane.
Late season that means something, particularly when you're dealing with what they've been through already for three months. You're dealing with the northeast weather issues which come up from time to time. They might well be working the same number of games, but they're doing it without sort of the extra things and the early wake-up calls and the strain of travel that they go through often and not now. So that we think all of us think will be the real benefit of this relationship.
Q. Most, if not all of the benefits, you pointed out would also apply to women's basketball and women's officials. I'm curious, was there any discussion of doing this on the women's side? Does that something you see coming? For John, is there any application of this for football? Any kind of collaboration coordination with the Big East?
JOHN SWOFFORD: In terms of women's basketball, first of all, I don't think that we're as far along generally speaking in terms of collaborative efforts there. But I think this may well be a road map for enhancing that, increasing those collaborations as well.
In terms of football at this given point in time, I don't really see that in the immediate future. I think football's a very different sport. You have officials basically working one game per week. I think the national collaboration in a lot of ways in terms of rules and application of the rules and centralizing those areas and trying to bring consistency to the training, and we have had some collaboration there where conferences get together from a training standpoint at times.
But I don't think football is as far along, and wouldn't expect it to be in the near future in terms of having this particular kind of alliance, but improving the collaboration not in assignments per se, and you don't have the same travel issues that you have in basketball. So there are significant differences there.
But in terms of consistency of how the game is called and application of the rules, et cetera, Rogers Redding has done a superb job in helping that along, helping those areas along over the last few years since he's been in that national role.
VAL ACKERMAN: I would just add women's basketball has sort of been handled differently and the alliances, so to speak, are factored different. Just speaking for the Big East, we share a supervisor, Deb Williamson who at one point handled what J.D. Collins does for the women. For many years she was the national coordinator of officials for the NCAA for women's basketball. She's now serving as the supervisor of officials for our league, together with the American Athletic Conference.
I know that the ACC is part of a different grouping, and I know the Big Ten is part of a different women's basketball grouping in the southeast and the Big 12 the same. So it's just sort of grown up in a different way. And I frankly haven't heard within women's basketball circles much of the desire to sort of tear that apart and reconfigure it, but I think anything's possible, certainly.
If this relationship was, if we thought there were some benefits coming out of this that we should be taking and moving over to the women's side, it's certainly something we'd be open to in exploring down the road.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much.
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