2021 ACC Media Days takeaways: Clemson talks playoff expansion, Mike Norvell’s tribute to Bobby Bowden

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The second day of the ACC Football Kickoff featured the teams from the Atlantic Division, allowing Clemson, Florida State and the rest of the league to make their way through the merry-go-round of media availability to close out the media days event. 

Among the storylines that lingered over the day were events elsewhere, like Texas and Oklahoma’s potential move to the SEC, but for the most part the focus stayed on things more directly impacted the league. A day after hearing ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and the Coastal Division coaches weigh in on name, image and likeness rules, COVID and College Football Playoff expansion, many of those same topics were on the mind of the Atlantic Division coaches Thursday. 

But it wasn’t all conference realignment and off-field topics, as plenty of the coaches here are also excited about the steps they can make to close the gap in a division that has been dominated by Clemson. The Tigers are setting the pace for the entire conference, and the Atlantic teams who were in front of the microphone Thursday are the ones intimately aware of how high that bar rests heading into 2021. 

Speaking of Clemson, they lead off our collection of takeaways from the second day of action at 2021 ACC Media Days: 

Dabo doubles down on NIL, CFP

Dabo Swinney addressed many of the local media at a Clemson media day earlier this week, where he made headlines for his stance against College Football Playoff expansion and vehemently denied that he’s ever been “against” NIL. Swinney’s comments from 2014 were against “professionalizing college athletics” and he described at length, both at the Clemson media day and then again at the ACC Football Kickoff, the many ways that the Tigers are prepared to help their players in the new NIL era. 

“This is common sense, Swinney said. “If a young guys want to go do an autograph signing, if a guy wants to go back and do a camp in his hometown, I worked all through college, there was never a day I didn’t work on my time. I cleaned gutters, umpired, cut grass, sold Cutco knives. I worked non-stop all through college.

“For our kids to not have the opportunity to work on their time, I’ve never agreed with that. That’s a common sense thing to me. I would have liked more to have been done through the scholarship, to be quite honest with you, because then everybody could participate. NIL is going to be for some, not for everybody. But we can’t facilitate. We can educate. We can navigate. We can equip. We’ve got an entire educational library. July 1 didn’t just get here and go, Okay, you figure this out.”

He also ran back, when pressed, his comments on College Football Playoff expansion, which center entirely on the number of games being played and the need to shorten the regular season if we’re going to add games to the postseason. Few coaches know what it’s like to navigate a 15-game season like Swinney, so when he described the wear and tear it takes on a player it should resonate. 

“I can just visualize being in Tampa after beating Alabama with one second on the clock, and then being out there at Levi Stadium, you’ve been in a championship game, you’ve been in a playoff game, you’ve been in a national championship game. Now you sit there and look at these guys and say, All right, guys, we got one more. You’re just spent. You’re exhausted,” Swinney explained. “What it takes at that level. People say, It’s just one more game. To me, that is a total lack of appreciation for what it takes to win a game, to prepare for a game, to play in a game of that magnitude.”

DJU’s Bojangles deal 

On Wednesday Bojangles announced a pair of NIL deals with North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell and Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. The announcement came just after Howell’s time at the podium, so Uiagalelei was the first get to offer official comment on the new deal.

“Bojangles is definitely a recent discovery. California, we don’t have Bojangles down there. I remember one thing coming down here to the South, one thing I definitely learned is Jesus is number one here, then it goes football, and then it goes people love Bojangles down here,” Uiagalelei said with a smile. 

Uiagalelei, sporting a “BIG 5INCO” chain for his No. 5-inspired nickname, even joked about a “Big Cinco box” or other meal deal, noting that he would have to check with his new partners on that but it “would be a super cool thing.” According to Bojangles, the deal will have both players making appearances on behalf of the company and sharing sponsored content on their personal social media accounts.

Mike Norvell starts with a word for Bobby Bowden 

The Bowden family announced on Wednesday that the Hall of Fame coach has been diagnosed with a terminal medical issue. The 91-year old Bowden says he is “at peace” with the diagnosis and the wake of the announcement has brought plenty of love, support and tributes from Florida State fans and members of the Seminoles football family. Florida State was up first Thursday and FSU coach Mike Norvell opened his time at the podium with some words about the coach who brought so much success to the program during his 34-year career with the Seminoles. 

“Just wanted to start off, our thoughts and prayers are with coach Bowden, Miss Ann. The news came out yesterday about the condition with coach Bowden. I just want to reference his words. As he’s at home, as he’s resting, he talked about being at peace. I think that even speaks to the legacy of who he is and what he’s all about. That’s what life is about. To be able to go through a journey, be in a challenging place, a challenging moment, be able to be at peace,” Norvell said. 

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and the relationship I’ve had and have been able to form with coach Bowden, just for who he is, the impact he’s made.

“To coach Bowden, we love you. We thank you. As he’s resting at home, just know we’re thinking about you, the impact you’ve made, that you continue to make by who you are. Wanted to open up with that from all of the Seminole family to coach Bowden, Miss Ann and the entire family. We’re thinking about you and love you.”

NC State learns from College World Series disappointment 

Vaccination rates have been a popular topic all across the country as programs aim for that 85% threshold and some programs will be 100% because of mandates by the university. NC State’s baseball team was removed from the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, just one win from making the final because of positive tests and contact tracing on a baseball team with several unvaccinated players. 

NC State coach Dave Doeren told reporters his team’s rate is getting closer to 85%, but the school is not making the vaccination mandatory and his job as a coach is not to force the shot on anyone but make sure they have all the information. That information includes the risk being unvaccinated might bring to a team’s success, with the NC State baseball team’s situation serving as a learning lesson for the entire athletic department. 

“First of all, it was heartbreaking to watch. Our coaching community, I guess you would say, we love coach (Elliott) Avent. He’s been a great friend to me. What they had, what a season. To see how it ended was heartbreaking,” Doeren said. “It’s an opportunity to learn for our team. We’re going to talk about it when we get together collectively. Our guys have seen it. We’ve talked one-on-one with several of the players. Like everyone, my job is to help these young men grow, help these guys compete, put them in the best places they can be, and keep them as safe as I can keep them.

“At the same time, it’s not my job to make medical decisions for our football team. All I can do is educate them, get them around the people that can help them make great choices. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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