NEW YORK -- The Atlantic Coast Conference is finalizing details for a multi-year agreement to play its postseason tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The details are expected to be completed by the end of the month, according to multiple sources.
The ACC desires a two-year agreement that could start as early as 2017, the next uncommitted year for the ACC tournament. (The ACC plays in Greensboro in 2015 and in Washington D.C. in 2016).
The looming issue with playing at the Barclays Center in 2017 is the Atlantic 10 tournament, as 2017 is the final year of the A-10's five-year agreement with the Barclays Center. The details of how the ACC and A-10 will navigate that have not been finalized and are expected to be discussed in the Atlantic 10's presidents and athletic directors meetings on Friday morning.
The ACC's move to New York has been viewed within the conference as inevitable, as it's expected that the league will rotate through New York and North Carolina locations after 2017. (Maryland's departure to the Big Ten makes Washington D.C. a less natural place to hold the tournament.)
The ACC has no chance to move to Madison Square Garden in the immediate future, as MSG has a deal signed with the Big East through 2026. Multiple sources described that contract as "air tight." A source with direct knowledge of the contract said that Joseph M. Leccese, the Big East's lawyer with prominent firm Proskauer Rose, spent an inordinate amount of time making sure that MSG couldn't get out of the deal with the Big East. (The Garden is considered the Big East's best asset.)
That left the ACC with the Barclays Center as its top option to give the league a presence in New York with its conference tournament. (The Barclays Center has also been in conversations with the Big Ten). While The Garden has more history and a Manhattan location, multiple ACC administrators stressed that they will not have an inferior venue.
"It wasn't Madison Square Garden or else," said an official at an ACC school. "People are enthralled with the Barclays Center. If The Garden is locked up, so be it. I don't think [the Barclays Center] is a warm up act. It's a hell of a facility."
Within the ACC, the move is viewed as a marriage of the best league in college basketball with the country's most prominent city and media market. Especially considering the ACC's recent northern expansion, with the addition of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame this season, the move to host the tournament in New York City has been considered a natural transition.
While the ACC's traditional roots are on Tobacco Road, the league's members came to a decision that expanding its reach to bigger markets is a must. The ACC is balancing its past and future by honoring its North Carolina roots by holding the tournament there and rotating it through New York as a sign of its expansion and increased national presence.
According to one source, the feeling among ACC coaches about playing in New York is overwhelmingly positive. Both Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and Syracuse coach Jim Boehiem lobbied hard for New York both privately and publicly. Behind the scenes, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina coach Roy Williams have been more bullish about the move to New York than they've let on publicly. Both programs have played games in New York in recent seasons and seen the power it can have with reaching alumni, media and as a recruiting tool. But they've chosen their words carefully, as to not offend their local fan bases.
The ACC's move to Barclays sets the stage for some fascinating college basketball theatre in New York, potentially drawing the college basketball spotlight away from Madison Square Garden. The ACC now includes former Big East stalwarts Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville and Boston College, which all have strong alumni bases in the New York area and are accustomed to traveling to New York for postseason tournaments.
When the ACC and Big East run congruently, it would pit two of the top leagues, cable giants ESPN and Fox and historic Madison Square Garden and the new-age Barclays Center.