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When Basketball Parallels History

At Duke, Zion Williamson was unimpeachable!

NCAA Basketball: Princeton at Duke
Dec 18, 2018; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) dribbles up court against Princeton Tigers guard Ryan Schwieger (15) during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won 101-50. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Johnson got off easy.

Not only was he acquitted on impeachment charges in 1868, the 17th president also escaped the ignominy of being included in the chart below. It would be 23 years after Abraham Lincoln’s successor, a racist foe of Reconstruction, barely escaped removal from office that basketball was invented, and 86 years before the first ACC basketball season was played.

Two other American presidents were impeached during the ACC’s existence and thus are covered by this chart. (A federal official may be impeached by the US House of Representatives yet not be convicted by the Senate.) ACC teams have fared well on those occasions when presidential articles of impeachment were adopted, with a single slip in eight forays outside the conference.

Now, while competition is confined solely to games within the ACC, there’s a chance Donald Trump could set a record by becoming the first president – or any other federal officeholder, for that matter — to be impeached twice. And ACC teams are involuntarily poised to set concomitant records that hopefully will never be broken.

Quite a distinction to punctuate a presidential legacy.

The first time Trump was chastised (but not chastened) was in 2019, when the House impeached him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Prez No. 45 was acquitted early in 2020 by a Senate that refused to hear witnesses.

After voting in vain for calling witnesses, then supporting acquittal, Senator Susan Collins of Maine wishfully assured all that Trump had “learned his lesson”. This statement was comparably astute to South Carolina coach Frank McGuire insisting, in defiance of photographic evidence, that Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, arms pinned by a Gamecock player, punched himself in the face during a Dec. 1970 fight between the two teams.

This go-round the House is reportedly rushing to consider another rebuke before Trump is scheduled to leave office next week at the end of his four-year term. The impetus for ejection is that, according to a draft article of impeachment, Trump “willfully incited violence” via the delusion-fueled rampage through the US Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6.

At least one article of impeachment reportedly will be introduced on Monday the 11th when no ACC men’s games are scheduled. But there are games slated for the 12th and 13th that could coincide with an expedited vote.

The US House website indicates Trump’s would be the 21st impeachment in American history executed by Congress. (States can impeach people too.) Thirteen of those impeached were US district court judges accused of offenses such as intoxication on the bench, abuse of power, tax evasion, and favoritism. The majority were either found guilty or resigned.

Four judges were impeached during the ACC’s existence, all but one during basketball’s off-season. The exception was G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., a US district judge from Louisiana. The New Orleans native was eventually found guilty, notably for accepting bribes and committing perjury, and disqualified from holding future office.

Articles of impeachment for Porteous were adopted on March 11, 2010, the first day of that year’s ACC Tournament, when Virginia beat Boston College, Miami topped Wake, Georgia Tech ousted UNC, and NC State edged Clemson at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Two presidents also got the Congressional stink eye. Like Trump, in 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached and ultimately acquitted.

So far no ACC squad has played more than once on the same day articles of impeachment were handed down against a president. League teams were 3-1 on the day Clinton was impeached, 4-0 when Trump first went through the congressional ringer. All played nonconference opponents.

The sole ACC loser was Georgia Tech, which got stomped by Kentucky in 1998. COVID postponed the Yellow Jackets hosting Pitt, set for Wednesday the 13th.

There are now six ACC games scheduled this week prior to Saturday, when it’s doubtful Congress will meet. Only five of 12 teams involved – Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Wake —previously competed the same day a president was impeached. Clemson, a sixth, was set to play at Chapel Hill on Tuesday, but already got bumped due to COVID-19 and was replaced by Syracuse.

Now we’ll see which teams, if any, coincidentally gain a second impeachment-related victory. Georgia Tech at least figures to sidestep a second loss.

s (Asterisk If Previously Played Same Day Impeachment Articles Approved)
President Articles Approved ACC Results
William Clinton Dec. 19, 1998 Kentucky 80-Georgia Tech 39
Maryland 81-Princeton 58
North Carolina 82-Dartmouth 68
Wake 77-East Tennessee State 53
Donald Trump Dec. 18, 2019 Clemson 78-Charleston So. 51
Duke 101-Princeton 50
Notre Dame 69-Binghamton 56
Syracuse 84-Oakland 62
Donald Trump Jan. 11-15, 2021? Jan. 12: Jan. 12: Duke*@Virginia Tech
Miami@Boston College
Syracuse*@North Carolina*
Jan. 13:
Notre Dame*@Virginia
Louisville@Wake Forest*
NC State@Florida State