The football schedule dominoes have fallen for every “Big Five” conference but the ACC, which will decide its path next month at the spring meetings at Florida’s Amelia Island (May 12-15).
In the eight versus nine-game conference schedule debate, three of the five-member gang will play nine by 2016 (Big Ten/Big 12/PAC-12), while the SEC stuck with eight – adding a provision requiring at least one Big Five team on the schedule.
ESPN, which has its own stake in the final decision, says the conference really could go either way per the ACC’s athletic directors.
The way they’ve polled it, seven ADs – including Georgia Tech, which has an SEC-ACC rivalry like Clemson and FSU – favor going to a nine-game slate. Duke joins the Tigers and Seminoles in terms of keeping the status quo – and Louisville, Boston College, Virginia Tech and UNC aren’t on the record yet for their lean.
As split as the ACC is currently, the vote will likely be announced as “unanimous” if they stay in the eight-game method. If the nine-game is approved, its detractors are well known – led by Clemson’s own Dabo Swinney.
Clemson AD Dan Radakovich cited in the report the economic issues involved in securing enough home games each season. He called for – instead – ACC teams going out and scheduling games like Clemson has recently with Auburn and Georgia – in addition to the annual rivalry game with South Carolina.
“If they don’t have that rival at the end of the year, then they need to schedule a college football playoff equity conference game on a home-and-home basis,” Radakovich told ESPN. “If they don’t have that rival, they need to schedule two, but they can do that based on when Notre Dame rolls on and off their schedule.”
UNC AD Bubba Cunningham is factoring a possible ACC television network into his decision – a nine-game schedule giving the conference 63 games (up from 56) in their inventory to televise.
“I am in favor of getting a separate channel, and however we have to do that, I’m willing to consider,” Cunningham said. “I’m flexible because I think a channel is very important to us.”
The ACC divisions, in their current state, make it difficult to please everybody schedule wise.
Syracuse wants to play in big markets Miami and Atlanta more regularly. The current 12-year schedule rotation doesn’t have Clemson returning to Charlottesville. Louisville won’t play Virginia Tech before 2025 per ESPN.
With the SEC’s renewed eight-game slate, they stayed with a 6-1-1 model of the divisional matchups, a permanent cross-divisional rival and one rotating cross-divisional opponent.
As of now, that’s the ACC’s plan – Clemson keeping its I-85 showdown with Georgia Tech.
But even if they stay with an eight-game schedule, that might not stay the same.
The ACC has already petitioned the NCAA to “deregulate” conference championship game rules, which currently call for a minimum of 12 teams and representatives of each division in the final.
One model tossed around is pitting the conference’s top-two teams regardless of division, which would then make divisions kind of pointless.
Another that could gain some traction with the 14-team ACC and momentum for better rotation is: three permanent opponents and two groups of five for each team that rotate home-and-home every two years (or every other).
Raliegh’s News & Observer laid out reasons for the three-by-five scheme and at least one way it could be configured.
Joe Giglio had Clemson’s three partners as Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia – playing N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Miami in one rotation and UNC, Duke, Syracuse, Boston College and Pitt in the other.
It would require the ACC to break the mold, which they can’t currently by NCAA rules, but for a league as unwieldy as any after expansion, some changes in that legislation would present a far better solution than the 6-1-1 of the SEC.