New Scattershooting: SMU, the ‘beast about to emerge’ in ACC; Football power poll & nuggets

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: SMU Athletics

Scattershooting around the new ACC, while wondering if the ACC has awakened a sleeping giant …

When the league expanded last week, adding Stanford, Cal and SMU beginning with the 2024-25 athletic calendar, the ACC voted to secure its future. With some schools barking about leaving the league, the ACC realized that if it is reduced to less than a 15-team league under its current TV contract, ESPN has a right to renegotiate payouts at a much lower rate.

Stanford and Cal (which has a major financial train wreck with its athletic department) will take a mere 30 percent of the “new money” available from ACC expansion for the next seven years.

ESPN will now provide an additional $72 million annually to the ACC, with $25-$30 million of that going into a kitty for schools that excel athletically. Some money will go to every league member and some money will be set aside for travel.

The present agreement is for each school to send one of their sports to the San Francisco Bay area once every two years. That’s not as bad as some had projected, especially considering that, if you’re a Virginia football fan, your Cavaliers will only have to make that west-coast trip twice over a five-year period. Note that UVA football made that cross-country trip three times over seven years between 2010 and 2016, when the Cavaliers played at Southern Cal, UCLA and Oregon.

While the Golden Bears and Cardinal will take that 30-percent share, SMU will take nothing, nada, for nine years. Why? Because it can afford it.

SMU is supported by more billionaires than any athletic program in the country. Its boosters held a big shindig in the indoor football facility when the ACC news was announced, and it was a big deal for a school that has been striving to join a Power 5 conference for years.

In two great deep-dive pieces by Ross Dellenger, senior college football reporter for Yahoo Sports and David Wilson of ESPN, they reveal some eye-popping stories about SMU’s drive to get “back in the game.”

David Miller, SMU’s 73-year-old chairman of its board of trustees and a billionaire oil man, led the charge. He traveled in his private plane all over the country, more than 20 trips, including to Charlottesville, in an attempt to persuade school and conference officials to accept the Mustangs into various leagues.

SMU won’t get any money for nine years, but Miller and other boosters will donate an estimated $200 million to foot the bill. They want the Mustangs back on the college football map for the first time since the school became the only program in football history to receive the NCAA’s death penalty, which essentially de-emphasized football since 1988.

Up until then, SMU was a player and had 11 Southwest Conference football titles in its trophy case, competing against Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

When asked about the money, Miller replied: “It’s a couple hundred million dollars. I’m not losing sleep over it.”

Sources out in Texas claim that SMU’s neighbors — TCU, Texas A&M and Texas — are all a little nervous about what could happen in Dallas, home of the Mustangs. They should be.

Miller has already offered a warning: “The beast is about to emerge. Just wait.”

Big-time hoops recruits visiting

Jacob Cofie, a powerful, face-up forward, perhaps the top power forward on the West Coast, is visiting Virginia basketball this weekend and will likely be at Saturday’s home football game.

Cofie is 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, and most of the schools in the Pac-12 want him. But now that most of those schools will be either in the ACC, Big 10 or Big 12 starting next year, maybe the Pac-12, or what’s left of it, isn’t so alluring anymore. Cofie is from the Seattle area.

The big forward isn’t the only one visiting Virginia this month and in October. Tony Bennett’s main recruiting target, sharpshooter Kon Knueppel from Milwaukee, is visiting next week (see related story here), while 2025 recruit Jacob Wilkins, the son of former NBA star Dominique Wilkins, will be in Charlottesville for the Blue-White scrimmage on Oct. 13.

Meanwhile, another ‘24 power forward, David Punch from Texas, has narrowed his list to seven and will visit UVA on Oct. 20. Also, Matt Hodge, an EYBL teammate of Cavaliers signee Christian Bliss, just narrowed his list to 10 and UVA made the cut for the ‘24 forward.

Hodge will be visiting Marquette this weekend, then will be at Maryland next weekend when the Terps host the Hoos on the gridiron, and Virginia the following weekend (Sept. 21).

ACC Stat of the Week

North Carolina recorded nine sacks against South Carolina in the opener, for minus-65 yards in losses. It was the most sacks by the Tar Heels since the 2000 season.

ACC Quote of the Week

UNC’s Mack Brown on the NCAA’s ruling that disqualified Tar Heels receiver Tez Walker for the 2023 season:

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more disappointed in a person, a group of people or an institution than I am with the NCAA right now. It’s clear the NCAA is about process and couldn’t care less about the young people it’s supposed to be supporting. I’ve lost all faith in its ability to lead and govern our sport.”

Almost a tackle

Virginia’s 34-year-old rookie kicker, Matt Ganyard, the oldest player in college football this season, joked around with media a couple weeks ago about hoping he could make just one tackle this season so he could one day brag to his grandkids that he recorded a tackle during his football career.

He almost did that against Tennessee last week, but blew the opportunity after kicking off to the Vols.

“[Ganyard] slowed them down a little bit, and then Sparky (punter Daniel Sparks) saved one,” said Coach Tony Elliott. “Sparky went and ran one down.

“Trust me, we do not need our kickers making tackles. That is not what we want.”

ACC Power Poll

This is how Hootie sees the ACC after Week 1 (by the way, he was one of the 67 voters who picked Florida State to win the ACC in the preseason media poll in Charlotte. Clemson received 103 of the 176 media first-place votes):

  • 1. Florida State: The Seminoles returned a bunch of firepower on both sides of the ball, had a more than solid recruiting class and one of the nation’s best acquisitions of talent from the transfer portal. It was obvious in the second-half domination of LSU that Florida State has tons of playmakers, way more than anyone else in the ACC.
  • 2. Duke: Wow, what a butt-whooping the Blue Devils put on a very sloppy Clemson team. Mike Elko’s squad looked very well-coached on both sides of the ball. Are the Tigers slipping?
  • 3. North Carolina: Looks like Mack Brown might finally have a defense. We’ll find out in a rematch of last year’s game with App State when both teams broke the scoreboard.
  • 4. Clemson: Duke was able to run the ball in crucial situations against the Tigers when everybody in Wallace Wade knew what was coming. New QB Cade Klubnik didn’t look so hot.
  • 5. Miami: We’ll know more about the Hurricanes after this weekend’s home game against Jimbo’s Texas A&M.
  • 6. NC State: Ditto. Wolfpack wasn’t overly impressive against UConn. Notre Dame is coming to Carter-Finley, so Brennan Armstrong finally gets to play against the Irish.
  • 7. Pitt: Will know more about the Panthers, too. They host Cincy, under former Louisville coach Scott Satterfield. The Bearcats put up 66 points and 667 yards on EKU last week.
  • 8. Wake Forest: The Deacs host Vandy in a battle of the brains.
  • 9. Virginia Tech: Started slow against ODU. Can’t do that against Purdue, even though the Boilermakers lost to Mountain West champion Fresno State last week. Lane is sold out.
  • 10. Louisville: Won easy Thursday night in a mismatch, struggled to beat Georgia Tech last week.
  • 11. Syracuse: OC Jason Beck, formerly of Bronco Mendenhall’s staff, watched his offense put up a lot of points last week. May do the same this week against Western Michigan.
  • 12. Georgia Tech: Could have beaten Louisville but couldn’t close the deal. Should be easier against SC State.
  • 13. Virginia: Facing a “must-win” this weekend at home against hungry JMU, if the Cavaliers want to do anything noteworthy this season.
  • 14. Boston College: Lost to Northern Illinois in opener. Coach on the hot seat. Better beat Holy Cross. 

Golden nuggets

  • Virginia football currently owns the second-longest streak in the nation of FBS teams without a win over a top-10 team. Can you name the year and the opponent? Answer at the end of this column. Oh, by the way, Wake Forest has gone the longest without a top-10 win, all the way back to 1946. Ouch!
  • Former Wahoo Jake Gelof homered for the third-straight game on Wednesday for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. 
  • Older brother Zack Gelof, also a former UVA player, was named American League Rookie of the Month for August. Gelof is the first Oakland A’s player to earn that honor in seven years.
  • Paul Finebaum posted this gem this week from Kevin Clark on college football: “High school recruiting establishes the floor, Transfer Portal defines the ceiling.” A new reality for all college football programs.
  • Chris Clegg of Dynasty Dugout noted this week that former UVA catcher Kyle Teel recently posted a 1.9 “pop time,” a stat I had never heard before, on a catch-and-throw that picked off an opponent trying to steal second base. The runner was out by two full steps. Clegg reported: “No catcher should be able to post those pop times on a pitch low and away in the dirt. Teel is going to be a Major League catcher for a long time.” The Red Sox organization already has moved Teel up to Double-A baseball after hitting .377 (20 for 53), including four doubles and nine RBI in A-ball. 
  • Danny Neckel came up with this interesting tidbit about the average rate for a 30-second advertisement during primetime college football games this month: CBS: $225K; ABC: $162K; ESPN: $146K; NBC: $135K; FOX: $90K; FS1: $26K; BIG 10 Network: $20K; SEC Network: $11K; ACC Network: $9K.
  • With SMU now in the ACC beginning with the 2024-25 season, the league is researching possibly using Dallas as a neutral site for some of the Olympic sports schedules that would cut down on the travel for Cal and Stanford coming east and the ACC’s eastern-seaboard teams going west. 
  • Georgia Tech has lost key defensive lineman Sylvian Yondjouen for the season. He has a torn ACL and will undergo surgery.
  • We have a terrific podcast interview with former UVA running back Don Flow (1974-76) on our site (also on YouTube with video, or anywhere you listen to podcasts — just search for The Jerry Ratcliffe Show). Flow tells a great story about how he was picked to host Queen Elizabeth at his room on The Lawn, and how he built a small car dealership into one of the nation’s largest companies, now owning 50 dealerships in Virginia (including several in Charlottesville) and North Carolina.
  • If you haven’t tuned in for “The Jerry & Jerry Show” on Tuesday mornings (10:15 to 11:15), you’re missing out if you’re a Virginia fan. We love the interaction with fans. You can find Tuesday’s episode, which goes in-depth on UVA-JMU, on my Twitter (@JerryRatcliffe), or on the “I Love C’Ville” network, YouTube and most other podcast venues.
  • Chris Graham and I will also post a new podcast Friday afternoon, taking a look at this weekend’s game, the first meeting between the two schools since 1983. I covered that game, a Virginia win, and the 1982 game, a JMU win with the help of eventual Redskins star Gary Clark.
  • Trivia answer: Al Groh’s Wahoos upset top-10 Florida State at Scott Stadium in 2005. FSU legend Bobby Bowden said: “We couldn’t stop that dadgum No. 18,” referring to Marques Hagans, now an assistant at Penn State. Hagans had a fantastic game against the Seminoles.