First off, the ACC does a great job with the event. It’s held at the Ritz-Carlton at Reynolds Plantation, a golf resort a little over an hour from Atlanta. Planned to the tee, the Kickoff includes a variety of golf and media events. There’s also a series of social activities for bowl committees and league personnel.
Each school has two player in attendance – one offense and one defense (with the exception of Wake, who had two defensive players?). In addition to Purvis and Brace, some of the names you might recognize included Sean Glennon, Drew Weatherford, Cullen Harper, and Jeremy Navarre.
They spilt the players along divisions, with the Atlantic guys doing radio and TV first, while the print and dotcom guys had our chance to interview the Coastal players. Since I was there to see the BC guys (and didn’t have any pressing needs with the other guys) I was able to observe the goings on. Some thoughts:
-- Seemingly every paper south of Richmond and north of Atlanta sent someone. We all read about big daily papers slashing travel budgets and scaling back coverage, yet these second-level papers send reporters. Good for them. It shows that there is an audience for this material.
-- The ESPNers in attendance were Mark Schlabach, Joe Schad, and the most prolific writer in the ACC, Heather Dinich. (Dinich is already posting from the event). Schad was easy to spot. In a sea of polo/golf shirts and khakis, Schad stood out in his dark pants (mighta been jeans), a dark shirt untucked and a dark pinstriped suit jacket. A lot of people like to bash ESPN, but they had (at least) three people there and they all worked every table long and hard. I know we all have the impression that ESPN folks don’t do their homework, but these three did.
-- The players get the short straw at this event. Everyone else has a multi-day stay and get to golf and mingle. The players arrived Saturday afternoon and were on flights back home by Sunday night.
Other names you might recognize included The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes, Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart, and ACC Now’s J.P. Giglio. I may have overlooked a few other hard working guys. These were just the faces I knew or got to meet.
As for the Boston media: the Globe’s Mark Blaudschun, the Herald’s Steve Conroy and the voice of BC football Jon Meterparel all made it down south.
Between sessions, I filled out my preseason ACC football ballot. I am not 100% on what I filled out, but you gotta put something down. I predicted the following order of finish:
2. Boston College
3. Wake Forest
4. Florida State
6. North Carolina State
1. Virginia Tech
2. North Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
Preseason Player of the Year: Cullen Harper
I’ll have quotes from my interviews with Brace and Purvis in the coming days. But some initial thoughts: both are quality kids. Both are very personable…and patient. Purvis was asked over and over again about life after Matt Ryan and Brace was asked about B.J. Raji ten different ways. Purvis completed his degree in May and Brace just completed his degree this summer. As I sat at the table another funny thing happened -- the guys from the smaller southern papers kept peppering them with the backhanded compliment questions like “were you guys surprised to win the Atlantic last year?” or “are you surprised that you’ve beaten Clemson three years in a row?” or “do you like playing the spoiler?”. Instead of the taking them as signs of disrespect, the guys answered them honestly.
Let me say this too...I’ve felt uneasy about BC’s chances until today. Ryan and Ron both have so much genuine confidence in Chris Crane and the offense, that I am starting to feel things could come together again.
That's Mark Blaudschun to Purvis' right and Steve Conroy to his left.
Brace fields questions.
My warning to Meterparel: "smile, Meter, this is going to be on the internet tomorrow!"
The hotel had plenty of these standing flags promoting the ACC.
ESPN's ACC blogger Heather Dinich interviews Ron Brace.
Sean Glennon had some of the biggest crowds. Standing behind him are ESPN's Mark Schlabach (in red) and the Sporting News Matt Hayes (in blue).
That's Tony Barnhart on the right.
Joe Schad was one of many ESPNers there.
The Coastal flags hung on one end of the room...
The Atlantic on the other.
Every table had two players. The media moves freely and just jumps in with questions, leading to a lot of repitition for the players.