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'Finishing is the top priority': Three takeaways for UNC football from the ACC Kickoff

UNC football head coach Mack Brown speaks during the 2022 ACC Football Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC football head coach Mack Brown speaks during the 2022 ACC Football Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday, July 21, 2022.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 2022 ACC Kickoff took place on Wednesday and Thursday, allowing coaches and players of ACC teams to discuss the upcoming football season. 

From realignment rumors to concerns about name, image and likeness, here are the main takeaways from what was a busy two days.

Realignment talks

Realignment took college athletics by storm over the past year, with USC and UCLA set to join the Big 10 in 2024, and Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC in 2025.

The ACC thus far has been unaffected by realignment, but has failed to quiet the rumor mill. ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips started off the ACC Kickoff by combating that speculation with a metaphor that likened conferences to neighborhoods.

“I'm okay with living in different neighborhoods," Phillips said. "That's not my point about you having to be in the gated community. My point is the community is best when all neighborhoods are healthy. All of them. Some will never reach $25 million or $30 million in revenue to provide for their athletics department, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be a part of it, part of the system, part of championships at times."

Whether or not the ACC will be able to last through its 2013 Grant of Rights agreement, which ends in 2036, is to be seen. Despite this uncertainty, Phillips is all for keeping everyone in the ACC's "neighborhood" for 14 more years.

"We've come together to have some discussions about what would be the next iteration for the ACC," he said. "It doesn't mean we're going to make a move. It doesn't mean we're not going to make a move, but all options are on the table."

The new era of NIL

On June 21, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow collegiate athletes to earn education-related revenue without the interference of the NCAA.

Over a year into the era of NIL, athletes are now profiting off their play and personal brand, something North Carolina head coach Mack Brown believes is fair for his players.

“NIL is a wonderful thought, and it's a great thing because these guys work so hard,” he said. “A musician from the student body can make money playing at a bar or playing at a concert. So, why shouldn't our guys be able to make money selling their brand and their name, image, and likeness?”

Alongside all the opportunities brought about by NIL comes a new assortment of challenges.

Improper use of monetary benefits within recruiting and different laws across states are just a few of the many new difficulties of NIL. Throughout the ACC Kickoff, numerous coaches voiced their concerns regarding these issues. 

“Where we missed (on NIL) as a group is that we didn't have any guardrails,” Brown said. “It's going to take the NCAA to step up and stop some of these people that are throwing around cash so readily before that will slow down.” 

UNC’s newfound mentality 

After failing to meet their own expectations last season, North Carolina football is looking to rebound from its 6-7 finish in 2021.

The Tar Heels believe the projections for this season are too harsh, but aren't discouraged.

“I love (the predictions) because we were criminally overrated last year,” Brown said. “That's why I'm so much more excited about where we are."

Controlling its own fate and expectations are some of the many challenges North Carolina has already tackled this offseason. With its season right around the corner — and its newfound mentality — UNC is taking the necessary steps to prove its doubters wrong. 

“(We’re) exaggerating how we finish every drill, every play, every rep in the weight room,” senior running back British Brooks said. “Finishing is the top priority right now.”

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