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  • ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast Conference by J. Samuel Walker
  • Murry Nelson
Walker, J. Samuel. ACC Basketball: The Story of the Rivalries, Traditions, and Scandals of the First Two Decades of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Pp. 416. Preface, notes, essay on sources, and index. $30 hb.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was created in 1953 for three major reasons, according to Samuel Walker, a history professor at the University of Virginia and long-time ACC observer/fan. First was to escape from the cumbersome size and operations of the Southern Conference, which was composed of sixteen teams of various sizes and ambitions. Second was to create a league that would distance itself from the violations and scandals of the early 1950s in college sports through higher academic standards and more judicious oversight of athletics. Third was to enhance the exposure and success of football for the teams in this new conference.

The first reason was quite reasonable, the second seemed ironic as ACC coaches were guilty of various infractions over the next ten years, and the third, almost unbelievable when one views the tremendous rise to power of ACC basketball, compared to the nearly second-tier status of ACC football. Walker develops his story around large personalities and events, using them to carry his chapters, filling in the remainder of what occurred in those time periods in quick bursts.

Walker deals with the mundane as well as the substantive, addressing issues like “what to name the conference” and “who should be members.” Regarding the former, names such as Dixie, the Seaboard, the Mid-Atlantic, the Mid-South, the Tobacco, and the Rebel were all considered before settling on the Atlantic Coast Conference. On the latter, the original teams were the four in North Carolina, South Carolina, Clemson and Maryland. After entertaining a number of possibilities, the league settled on an eighth member, the University of Virginia. Interestingly, the initial reluctance on the part of the new ACC was based on the lower academic standards of UVA, which have certainly changed greatly (much more demanding) since that time. [End Page 574]

Frank McGuire and Everett Case dominated the early years of the league—Case at North Carolina State, then referred to as the State College of North Carolina, and McGuire at North Carolina, then later at South Carolina. Case brought in great players, created a strong program, and violated academic standards in his recruiting. The most famous of his early cases regarding recruitment violations, the Jackie Moreland “affair” is well covered. Moreland, from Minden, Louisiana, was denied entry to State College by the ACC, and Case saw that decision as depriving him of league and national titles. Moreland went, then, to Louisiana Tech and was an All American and, subsequently played for the Detroit Pistons and, later, the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association. Moreland died at age thirty-three of pancreatic cancer in 1971.

Frank McGuire, a New Yorker, established his “underground railroad” by bringing players from the New York City area to Chapel Hill and leading to the first Southern U.S. team to win the National Collegiate Association of America (NCAA) championship in 1957 when University of North Carolina (UNC) defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime. Of the fifty-four points scored by UNC, fifty-two were by New York City players. Both Case and McGuire were forced out of their positions as a result of recruiting violations. McGuire left UNC in 1961 and coached the Philadelphia Warriors but returned to the ACC as coach of South Carolina in 1964. University of South Carolina left the ACC because of the demanding academic standards, most specifically the 800 rule (players needed at least an 800 of 1600 combined score on the SAT to be recruited and admitted), in 1971.

The other two North Carolina schools (Duke and Wake Forest) were the other part of the four schools that dominated the early years of ACC basketball. Walker chronicles their successes, as well as the “revolt of the also rans”—Maryland, Virginia, Clemson...


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