Did Everett Case Really Invent the ACC Tournament?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Everett Case created the ACC Tournament.

Everett Case was best known for being the head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack from 1946 until 1964.

One of the great coaches of his day, Case was also a great salesman for the sport of college basketball, as he helped drive the popularity of the sport in the South.

Originally, North Carolina State was part of the Southern Conference, along with the other great Southern basketball squads like North Carolina, Duke and Maryland.

However, the Southern Conference was very much a football conference at the time (although Case was doing his best to change that in North Carolina), and it was football that led to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

You see, going into the 1951 season, people were beginning to almost “fear” college bowl games, mostly because there was so much money wrapped up in a team going to a bowl game that they would do anything they could to get there, including rigging their schedule so that they would not have to face the best competition. And since the Southern Conference had an unwieldy 17 teams in it, there was no good way to pick who was the “champion” of the conference. So the Southern Conference decided to ban teams from playing in bowl games, hoping that this would curtail any sketchy behavior. Naturally, colleges disagreed with this idea, and Marylan and Clemson both received and ACCEPTED invitations to play in bowl games in 1952.

They were suspended by the Southern Conference, but that just drove Maryland, Clemson and six other schools (including Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State) to leave and form their own conference that would allow bowl games – the ACC.

It was here that Everett Case came up with an idea that was quite controversial for a few decades – while the ACC college football teams would decide a champion via polls, the ACC college basketball teams would decide via a round-robin, single-elimination tournament. So you could go 24-0 during the regular season, but if you lost in the ACC tournament, you were NOT the ACC champion – the team that won the tournament was, even if they were 11-13.

So that is an innovation that is clearly Case’s, and it was that innovation that helped drive the early interest in the ACC tournaments (which soon expanded into television, as well). However, it is often said that Case INVENTED the ACC tournament, or that he CREATED the ACC tournament.

Is that accurate?

I don’t believe so.

Due to its size, the Southern Conference had been doing tournaments for years (since 1922).

It is pretty clear that “all” Case did (the quotes are because it IS significant) was to adapt the Southern Conference tournament with his “winner takes all” idea.

That was most likely a great idea and led to significant interest in the ACC (that continues to this day), but it does not count as “creating the ACC tournament,” I don’t think.

Amusingly enough, one tournament Case DID create was the “Dixie Classic,” a yearly basketball tournament (hosted at North Carolina State’s stadium, naturally) made up of the four North Carolina members of the Southern Conference (then later, the ACC) – NC State, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest.

The tournament ceased being held after about a dozen years – the reason?

A point shaving scandal.

Perhaps the Southern Conference knew what they were talking about when they were worried about the morals of college sports (do note that NC State was also suspended for a number of years in the late 1950s when it was alleged that Case had paid a high school recruit)….

The legend is…

STATUS: False Enough for a False

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Leave a Reply