When ACC football poops the hamper, everyone from the Pac-10 to the Big East laughs. But two groups keep talking about it for days afterward: ACC people and SEC people. Something about ACC football really bugs SEC fans in a way that goes beyond jokes or standard conference pride.
One Gator fan sees "futility" when looking at a week in which four ACC teams bravely played superior out-of-conference opponents, three of them in road games. Clemson taking host Auburn to the wire in the season's bloodiest game: that's supposed to embarrass the ACC? Wake Forest flying coast-to-coast to lose to Stanford, currently ranked sixteenth in the nation, isn't anything to be ashamed of. Duke getting blown away by Alabama isn't pathetic; would Vandy, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, or Tennessee really do that much better against Bama? (The Tide's out-of-conference schedule is pathetic, but that's another story.)
I don't mean for it to look like Andy's post set this whole thing off, because it didn't. He's a smart writer and football fan. It's just the most recent example I've seen of an SEC writer finding more fault with ACC football than ACC writers have. I haven't seen any ACC bloggers write about being especially unimpressed by Clemson, Wake, or Duke last Saturday. So why would an SEC writer do so?
ACC on-piling is a national hobby, and I get it. It's merited. The conference takes its medicine every time it collapses, and that makes sense. Sure, I wish there was more writing that accounted for context. Why does the ACC fail at football? SEC schools have more football money, for one, which leads to the nation's best coaching, facilities, and recruiting, but that's not really what Joe Southeastern Conference focuses on, and that's not really what we're talking about here.
Beyond pure schadenfreude, SEC fans and writers often speak of the ACC as if there's something wrong with the souls of its supporters. Basketball conference jokes spring from this worldview. It's like they think we're foregoing a responsibility to do better, or something. Like we've let someone or something down.
I liked what Michael at Braves & Birds wrote this morning on why ACC football sucks:
This is a free market economy and more often than not, you get what you pay for. The SEC (and to a slightly lesser extent, the Big Ten) cares more about football because the conference is full of historical powers supported by fans who were weaned on college football fanaticism. That fanaticism pays for Bobby Petrino and Steve Spurrier. (There is no SEC equivalent to Miami, a potential superpower program that doesn’t spend money on football and thus has to skimp on coaching hires.) That fanaticism cannot be created overnight. That’s why the ACC is languishing in football.
Which I think starts to answer our question.
ACC football struggles because it's not a priority on par with SEC football. Granted, obvious, and worth repeating. A much more valuable insight than LOL ACC, though there's a time for that too. (That time is called "every other Saturday.") SEC fans are annoyed by half-hearted ACC football, perceiving everyone involved with it, from its fans to its athletic directors, as the committers of a huge mistake, [another Arrested Development reference so you know that's what I'm paraphrasing].
I think it's a problem of geography. To the SEC fan, Southern college football is paramount and a thing meant to be taken seriously and done right. If the ACC were not mostly located in the Southeast, half-assed ACC football would not be an affront to the sacred tradition of Southern college football. SEC fans wouldn't woof about the lack of attendance at ACC games if they were played on the west coast instead of across town. Or, have you ever heard an SEC fan make fun of the ACC's Boston College?
Beneath the punchlines, it's as if there's a note of concern about the regional legacy the ACC is squandering. Cross-conference rivalries add pockets of local flavor to the whole thing, but for the most part I do think the tension point is due to SEC fans being offended by the ACC's incompetent misrepresentation of Southern grass, Southern air, Southern passion, and Southern talent. Am I wrong?
Let's all just thank God there isn't an ACC team in the state of Alabama.