Jeff Capel Says What We've All Been Thinking About the ACC Network

Photo credit: Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports

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We've all heard the narrative surrounding the ACC this basketball season.  "The conference is down".  "Conference records in the ACC don't matter as much as other conferences."  "Being great in the ACC isn't as good as being bad in the Big 12."  Especially as Pitt fans, we've heard it.

A lot of the problem comes from the way in which the ACC is supposed to be portrayed.  North Carolina and Duke are supposed to be the best two teams, and then the other teams just line up behind them.  Syracuse also has a decent legacy as a basketball program so they are supposed to be good as well.

We see it in football too.  The year Pitt won the ACC, Clemson, Miami, and Florida State had down years.  Since Pitt and Wake Forest were the two best teams, the whole conference was having a "down year".  It's not factual, it's really just perception.

So because teams like Pitt and Clemson and Miami are at the top of the ACC this season in basketball, and Duke and UNC are not, the conference must be having a down year, right?  

Well unfortunately a lot of this perception is coming internally.  Those of us who have watched Pitt games against the Blue Bloods this season have felt a bias against Pitt.  In a game against North Carolina, Pitt had led most of the first half and for the first five minutes of the second half.  However, as soon as UNC went on a little bit of a run, Dan Bonner said, "This game is getting out hand for Pitt, Wes."  

UNC had taken a very manageable 6-point lead, Pitt had led most of the game, and there were still over 10 minutes left.  Sure enough, the game was not out of hand for the Panthers and Pitt won 65-64.  But, the bias was clear that night.  And the commentators could not stop talking about Tar Heel, Armando Bacot, during the game.

And it continued the very next game when Louisville was playing at the Pete.  Pitt dominated the whole game.  However, the ACC Network had to meet their "talk about Armando Bacot quota" because a graphic appeared on the screen mid-game comparing Pitt's Fede Federiko to Bacot.  The dude wasn't even playing in the game and they still had to talk about him.

So finally Pitt head coach Jeff Capel made mention of this bias from the conference's own network.  He was particularly touching on the narrative that the conference is having a down year.  Per Christopher Carter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Capel was quoted as saying this weekend,  

"I don't really get it.  You look at the success we've had in the NCAA Tournament, the ACC/Big 10 challenge, what our guys have done nationally as far as coaching/players/talent/draft picks, it's more than anyone.  I never really understood it.  When we were at Virginia Tech, the night before, I'm watching our own network and one of the first questions that comes up is: 'Is it perception or reality that the ACC is down?'  I never see that on the Big Ten Network.  I watch the Big Ten Network a lot because one of my best friends coaches in that league, so I'm watching them.  They're always, always pumping the Big Ten.  Always.  I think it's a really good league but I think ours is too.  I wish people that represent us would have the respect, pump our league and be positive, instead of looking at negative things."

Thank you coach.  Finally someone of influence said it out loud.  

You'll always have other conferences arguing for their own conference and building up theirs against another.  The Big 12 will speak down on the ACC, just like everyone speaks down on the Pac-12, and etc, etc.  But to have your own network speak negatively about the conference is when there is a problem.  The perception is being perpetuated from inside the house.  It's time to recognize that Duke and UNC can have down years without the whole conference being down.  Celebrate the successes instead of focusing on the failures.

As if the ACC Network wasn't bad enough with their broadcasting, they could at least have the teams' backs who are in the conference they're representing.  So I'm happy Capel finally just said what we were all thinking and hopefully the narrative will change as conferences fight for spots in the NCAA Tournament.