The decision has been made, the 2004 & 2005 Atlantic Coast Conference football championship games will be in Jacksonville, beating out Baltimore, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Washington.
While I would have loved Atlanta as the location, the SEC title game precludes that option, so Jacksonville truly seems to be the next best option. Washington and Baltimore are too far north, too far from the middle of the conference, too cold in early December. Miami, Orlando, and Tampa are all too far south, a 10+ hour drive from anywhere but FSU, Miami, and Georgia Tech (though Tampa wouldn’t be bad because a) no ACC Bowls are played there, b) great facilities, and c) my mom and in-laws live there). Charlotte isn’t a bad option – a nice town, and nice facilities, but in the run-up to the bowls, fans and players want an atmosphere to be outside, celebrate, and maybe take a vacation. I mean, do you think of the great atmosphere surrounding the Motor City Bowl? Charlotte also would have let the Carolina schools think they’re still in charge, and would be a bad thing.
That leaves Jacksonville. Decent facilities, decent town (from what I hear). It’s already the site of a game with HUGE atmosphere (Florida/Georgia), that is wildly successful. The biggest flaw in J-ville is that the ACC’s #2 bowl is the Gator Bowl, and few fans will want to go to the same town twice in a month. So I suppose they’re betting that the #2 team will make a BCS bowl, now that they’ve added the 5th game. Not a bad bet, with the ACC jostling for the crown of the best conference in all the land, it’s a reasonable bet. If not, a swap with the Capital One or Cotton Bowl could make sense, and the Peach Bowl is one of the top tier #3 bowls around. And for the near future, chances are that either FSU or Miami will be in that game, so the location ensures a huge turnout. Not a bad decision from the new ACC… at least until they prove to Atlanta that it’s worth their while to give the SEC title game the boot.