Lucas: Ten Things You Should Do At The ACC Tournament

By Adam Lucas | 6 Comment(s) | Posted

The region's favorite springtime holiday allegedly starts today, although we all know the ACC Tournament doesn't really start until Friday. Beginning with the Les Robinson Invitational in 1992, the ACC has tried to convince us we should try to care about Thursday games, even briefly experimenting with a bizarre format in which the 1 seed played on Thursday and then got a bye to the semifinals after their completely boring win over the 9 seed.

With the league due to expand next year, and the direction of the tournament uncertain after 2015, this may be one of your last opportunities to experience the ACC Tournament as many longtime fans remember it. Here are 10 things you definitely need to do at the ACC Tournament before it moves to Madison Square Garden, Philips Arena or the Staples Center:

1. Watch on a TV wheeled into your classroom. There was a very easy way to tell the cool teachers at Farmington Woods Elementary, Apex Middle and Apex High: they were the ones who let us watch the noon games of the ACC Tournament while we were in class. Sometimes they tried to pretend they were relating it to our lesson ("Let's use math to determine Kenny Smith's field goal percentage"), and other times they quit the charade and just let us watch and root for our favorite teams. A generation of ACC fans was solidified this way.

This morning, I asked our kids if their teachers were going to let them watch. "I don't think so," our daughter said. "We have to have a certain number of instruction hours." 

Thanks a lot, public schools.

By the way, if you don't know what "a TV wheeled into your classroom" looks like, then you didn't go to school in the 1980s or early 1990s. Kids, it used to be that TVs weren't in every classroom, and teachers had to sign them out from the media center. They were rolled out of the library and to the classroom on a giant black cart. Walking into the classroom on ACC Tournament Friday and being greeted by that giant cart with the behemoth television sitting on top was a sure sign it was going to be a good day.

2. Write your kids an excuse note. If you need to circumvent the mean teachers and/or unaccommodating public school system, just pretend your kids are sick. My parents did it for 12 years, and I turned out just fi...well, that's probably not a good example. I never once had perfect attendance in school, because I always missed the Friday of the ACC Tournament. When I returned to school on Monday, I'd have a note from my parents indicating that I'd been afflicted with a terrible illness, but that I appeared to be on the road to recovery.

The smart teachers were never fooled. My freshman year of high school, my brilliant English teacher, Mrs. Whitaker, looked at me on Thursday before the ACC Tournament and said, "Adam, I can tell by looking at you that you might be feeling sick tomorrow. I'm thinking you may not be at school Friday." She was right.

3. Cheer for an underdog. This was perhaps more applicable in the old days, when fans knew the players and head coach on every opposing school, so it was easy to tell who was the hero and who was the villain. Bobby Cremins, for example, was always hard to cheer against. Lefty Driesell, on the other hand, was a ton of fun to watch on the sideline and even more fun to root against. By age eight, I had perfected the "Lefty stomp" and the "Lefty choke sign" in the stands.

One of the most vocal ACC Tournament crowds ever was in the 1992 ACC Tournament, when Florida State was eliminated in the semifinals by Carolina. It was the first year in the league for the brash Seminoles, and they weren't very likable. I vividly remember Tar Heel fans--and even a few Duke and NC State fans--saluting the Seminoles with a special variation of the tomahawk chop in the final seconds of Carolina's 80-76 win.

 4. Buy tickets from fans of a losing team. This requires a delicate balancing act. If it's Friday and you're looking for tickets to Saturday's sessions, it's relatively easy to secure tickets from a Clemson or Wake Forest fan, who probably didn't expect to stay the whole weekend anyway and just wants to get rid of their tickets and get home. It's tougher with an angry Duke (or Carolina) fan who just suffered an upset. Use caution.

5. Sit in the arena all day on Friday and watch every minute of every game. I used to make my dad do this. Clemson-Florida State? Yes, we will be there. Virginia-Wake Forest? Absolutely. Remember, the alternative was being in school. 

6. Eat at Stamey's between Friday sessions. This requires careful planning. You don't want to wimp out and leave the 2 p.m. game early. But you also don't want to be late getting back for the 7 p.m. game. Be ready to leave as soon as the buzzer sounds and you should have time to get to Stamey's, eat some barbecue, and still get back in time for tipoff.

7. Tailgate between sessions. I think this started at the Charlotte Coliseum (not the old Charlotte Coliseum, but the one better-known as The Hive). Getting out of the Coliseum parking lots was an epic disaster, and it was built in an era before anyone realized that it would be a good idea to build arenas nearby other things people actually needed, such as restaurants. So the Coliseum was located in the middle of absolutely nothing. Tired of fighting the crowds getting in and out of the parking lots, fans began bringing elaborate tailgating setups, and would spend the between-sessions interlude sitting in the parking lot and enjoying their tailgate.

8. Have a fire, a wreck and a robbery. Our family used to treat the ACC Tournament as a pseudo-family reunion. Grandparents, aunts and uncles would all go, and (usually) the ladies would go shopping while the guys would go to the games. In one particular tournament, the following happened:

1. The fire alarm went off at our hotel, forcing everyone into the parking lot in the middle of the night. 2. Another fan ran into our car after the Friday afternoon game, hopped out, surveyed the damage (which he had caused), proclaimed, "I'm satisfied," and drove off. 3. Upon returning to the arena for the evening games, my grandfather had a headache. We had no ladies with us and thus, no Tylenol. My uncle went to the concession stand to ask a worker if she had any Tylenol (this was in a different era, when asking food service workers for drugs was totally acceptable). She said yes, and we eagerly thanked the good Samaritan. And then she said, "I'll only charge you $2 apiece."

When the day was recapped to my mother, it was described this way: "It started out fine, until we had the fire, the wreck and the robbery."

9. Yell at someone in the parking lot. Duke has a cheer to which the punch line is, "We're going to beat the hell out of YOU!" and when they say, "YOU!" they point at the opposing team. Well, you can imagine how old that could get (and also how scandalous it seemed to an eight-year-old when I first heard it). In 1991, after Carolina had throttled the Blue Devils, 96-74, in the championship game (Christian Laettner got a technical foul and it was awesome), we were sitting in Charlotte Coliseum traffic (see above) with my aunt and uncle. Still riding high from the victory, my uncle spotted a car a little ahead with several Duke bumper stickers.

As we nosed next to that car, he motioned that they should roll down their window. The clueless Blue Devil fans did so, allowing my uncle to joyously shout, "We just beat the hell out of YOU!" complete with a point out the window at the Duke fans.

It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. Also, I have no idea how I turned out the way I did.

10. Drive home on Sunday while filling out your NCAA bracket. When the tournament was in Charlotte, it was virtually impossible to go to the championship game, get out of the parking lot and still get home in time for the NCAA Tournament selection show. Every Sunday morning, we would save the Charlotte Observer, which would always include a blank bracket. After the title game, we'd search the radio dial for a station carrying either the Tar Heel Sports Network or Wolfpack Sports Network coverage of the selection show (in my memory, the THSN sometimes stayed on the air straight through the selection show, but can that be right?). We'd pencil in the seeds and then spend the final hour of the drive going over the matchups and picking our potential upsets.

What other ACC Tournament must-dos would you add to the list?

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  1. Kevin Baggs's avatar
    Kevin Baggs
    | Permalink
    Go to the hotel of your team and send them off before each game.
  2. Bryan Williams's avatar
    Bryan Williams
    | Permalink
    Love it! Especially #1. I was trying to impart exactly the same thing to a young basketball fan the other day and this sums it up precisely...outstanding.
  3. GGPR's avatar
    | Permalink
    I've only been once for the ACC tournament but have been to a few NCAA first and second round games in Greensboro. For the men: mentally rank other schools' cheerleaders and dance squads. Cheer when bands play unexpected rock/pop/hip hop songs. Buy a souvenir program and cup. Yeah, it's expensive. Listen to the Tar Heel Sports Network during or in between games.
  4. Fritz Smith's avatar
    Fritz Smith
    | Permalink
    Actually the "new" Charlotte Coliseum was built on Tyvola Road because the city owned the property. Any one who was around Charlotte in the mid 1980s when this decision was made KNEW this was a bad idea because there was nothing around it. We screamed for an uptown arena but to no avail.
  5. Andrew's avatar
    | Permalink
    We will definitely watch the tournament in my classroom this afternoon, my teachers did it for me, and I want to keep that alive
  6. Courtney's avatar
    | Permalink
    Awesome article! Brought back tons of memories, especially those black tv carts rolling in. I was lucky enough to get called out of school early Friday morning to make the trek from Charlotte to G'boro in time for the noon game most years. So excited to be in the big game tomorrow!

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