Both trophies were on display in Charlotte, though Commissioner John Swofford opened his state-of-the-league forum by noting: "We also know you don't live too long on last year's laurels."
Swofford also announced legendary official Ron Cherry - he of the much beloved "Giving Him The Business" call:
And so many other, shall we say, moments, is retiring. Cherry will move into a role with the league office. Swofford made the announcment some 25 minutes into his opening address. And with that, a truly iconic zebra era ends. Jokes aside - we wish Ron only the best as his retirement was likely hastened by this nasty hit he took last year while officiating the USC/Notre Dame game.
Following his formal podium statements - Swofford held a casual pow wow with a group of media to the side of the stage - as casual as Swoff can be anyway.
Some topics of note that he was asked about:
Divisional imbalance. This is of special interest to State fans primarily, and I suspect not because they're dying to see more of Duke, though that's an issue as well. Swofford was asked about more champions coming from the Atlantic (read: Clemson, FSU) and he said he believes these things are cyclical.
At the podium he had mentioned that the cross-division records are near equal, but the obvious issue is with the Atlantic being exceptionally top heavy. While I agree with the cyclical notion in theory, it's hard to imagine either Clemson or FSU cycling into mediocrity. However - one bad hire post Dabo/Jimbo and you never know. Either way - Swoff made it clear that any discussion of divisional realignment is presently non-existent. Both Dave Doeren and Larry Fedora affirmed as much at the Spring Meetings in Florida in May. That included the idea of scrapping the permanent crossover game (State vs Carolina, Duke vs Wake) to create greater equity and frequency of meetings.
Asked about Louisville's NCAA punishment for its basketball prostitution/recruiting scandal, Swofford did not get into specifics but admitted to being somewhat surprised at some aspects of the NCAA's ruling.
When UNC came up, Swofford kept it simple. "It'll be over when it's over."
If there was a theme from the Pack's appearance at ACC Kickoff, it was their expressed desire to be, as Bradley Chubb put it, "the team no one wants to play". Relentlessly physical is the idea. State muscled Clemson at Death Valley and went blow for blow with Florida State. Both those games wound up as losses, but more than any wins in my mind showed what Doeren wants his team to be. I asked Dave in the interview room how he identifies players with that mentality in recruiting and he gave this great answer:
I also asked Doeren, Jaylen Samuels and Bradley Chubb about the burden of expectations and whether they feel they can truly compete for a championship, more than just lip service. "Expectations are earned" Doeren said. He welcomes them. Samuels told me this is a tipping point season for State: "Something special is going to happen."
This is a confident bunch. Clemson, FSU and Louisville feel similarly for obvious reason, but there's certainly no sense of deference from this year's Pack. Starting September, it's time to prove the heightened expectations are warranted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report