GREENSBORO, N.C. — ACC commissioner John Swofford has had four of the most unique months of any athletics leader of his kind.
Playing the role of part businessman, part firefighter, Swofford has spent the better part of this year brokering key deals that appear to have given his conference more solid footing than critics have given it credit for having. Just as record-setting television deals, future bowl agreements and league expansion have taken shape, Swofford still finds himself quelling suspicion, silencing rumors and denying intrigue revolving around two of his most respected schools.
"It's a battle," Swofford told reporters at the Grandover Resort on Sunday during the opening day of the ACC Kickoff.
It doesn't appear the fight has caused him to lose much sleep.
After spring Internet rumors that Florida State and Clemson were ready to leave the ACC for the Big 12, Swofford maintains his belief that the ACC is, and will be, strong.
"That's never been an issue in my mind," Swofford said when asked about concerns the conference was fracturing. "You're looking at a league that has a group of schools that are together for all the right reasons."
Swofford visited Clemson's board of trustees Thursday to assure them of his confidence in the conference's future.
"I had a great visit with Clemson," said Swofford, who blamed social media for repeating misinformation that "has no real basis of truth to it … or is simply inaccurate."
Pat for now: Saying the league is "totally focused on 14" schools, Swofford seemed adamant that the only changes to the ACC's composition would be the already-announced additions of Pitt and Syracuse, with no subtractions. The Panthers and Orange announced separate agreements last week to pay $7.5 million apiece in order to leave the Big East for the ACC in 2013. Swofford said his league would not help either school with those payments.
Tight-lipped 'Canes: On the heels of a Yahoo Sports report that more recruiting violations took place under new coach Al Golden's watch, the Miami players in attendance wanted to turn the focus back to the field and the season ahead.
"There's nothing to talk about; we don't know enough about (the reports) to talk about them," RB Mike James said.
Added DB Brandon McGee: "Our concern during the season is about books and ball. We're not worried about anything outside of that except for the games on our schedule, football and school."
Swofford declined to discuss specifics of the investigation at Miami but said that as it relates to the league's image, "those are situations you never want in any conference."
ACC on Penn State: As Penn State awaits word today from the NCAA with regard to likely punitive penalties in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal (more on page 1A), ACC coaches put out a statement.
"The situation at Penn State is a tragedy from all angles, most specifically for the victims," the statement read. "It's our responsibility to represent the institutions we serve, while always being mindful of our place within collegiate athletics."
Penn State officials took down the statue of former coach Joe Paterno on Sunday and put it in storage.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.