On May 8, 1953, the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. when seven schools (South Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson and Maryland) decided to break apart from the Southern Conference. In December of that year, Virginia joined the group and the ACC became an 8-school conference.
As the late Roy Clogston, Athletic Director of N.C. State from 1948-69 noted, “Jim Tatum (Maryland), Rex Enright (South Carolina) and Eddie Cameron (Duke) were the ring leaders in forming this conference. I just went along for the ride.” On May 7, 1954 Jim Weaver, former A.D. of Wake Forest, was appointed the first Commissioner of the A.C.C.”
This secession came about largely because of the Southern Conference’s football policies. In 1951, Clemson and Maryland received bowl bids to the Gator and Sugar Bowls respectively but the college presidents of Southern vetoed any bowl participation. The two teams defied the ban and Miami beat Clemson 14-0 and Maryland beat Tennessee 28-13. While this friction factored in the decision to leave Southern, Clogston stated, “We thought we could form a conference with teams in our own class and the gates would improve. The Southern Conference was so big it was unwieldy and some of the teams wouldn’t draw.”
While football formed the impetus for forming the conference, basketball got the ACC Conference off and running. From the start, the ACC basketball tournament was a sold out spectacular that combined sports and social events. Most of the socials were segregated by sex until some of the women, led by Roy Clogston’s wife the late Ruby Clogston insisted that at least some of the socials include men and women.
Clogston recalls that in 1954, he asked the NC State athletic council to raise the price of tournament tickets from $9.50 to $14.50. He recounted at that meeting that one of those “two-by-four” guys said, ‘I don’t know why you want us to go out on a limb like that.’ Despite this professor’s gloomy prediction, the first ACC tournament was a sellout and turned over million dollars to the conference. To meet the seemingly impossible demand for tickets, the ACC pioneered televising tournament games first on a delayed bases and eventually televising the finals live.
And thus an sporting franchise was born.