ACC's 8-or-9 game schedule vote could go either way

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich meets with Virginia AD Craig Littlepage, center, and Ohio Sate AD Gene Smith and Nora Swofford before the annual Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon on Friday at the Jungle Island ballroom in Miami

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich meets with Virginia AD Craig Littlepage, center, and Ohio Sate AD Gene Smith and Nora Swofford before the annual Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon on Friday at the Jungle Island ballroom in Miami

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.”

Division dissolution?

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.

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Comments » 12

lhaselden writes:

The 6-1-1 schedule model has to be thrown our... replace it with 9 games or if the NCAA allows it the 3-5 / 5 schedule model.
Clemson's 3 rivals should be GaT, FSU, NCSt not UVa!!!

lhaselden writes:

Giglio proposes 3 rivlas and 5 other confernce games then playing them the next year, I think it should be 5 teams 1st year and the other 5 on alternating years. Every 4 years rotate some rivals if both teams request it.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to lhaselden:

The 6-1-1 schedule model has to be thrown our... replace it with 9 games or if the NCAA allows it the 3-5 / 5 schedule model.
Clemson's 3 rivals should be GaT, FSU, NCSt not UVa!!!

I think Giglio's reasoning, as a NC State beat writer, was not everybody was going to get their rivalries in the trio. He had Wake, UNC and Pitt as the Wolfpack's three. Clemson would play NC State twice in a four-year span like everybody else outside of their three.

TigerFan95 writes:

I like the 3-5 idea but I agree with Ihaselden, our third partner should be NC ST not UVA. The Textile Bowl needs to stay every year. I also think the groups of five Giglio proposes would make for an over-weighted schedule one year and an under-weighted one the next. VT & Miami should be in separate groups.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

I don't get Dabo's reasoning for sticking to 8... at all. Here's why:

1) What is Clemson giving up by going to 9 games? Currently they play 12 games: 8 conference games, South Carolina, a late-August SEC opponent to kickoff the season, and 2 in-state 1-AA schools. A 9-game schedule would simply replace an in-state cupcake with a coastal division opponent. The ONLY thing Clemson gives up is 1 home game every 2 years. And in the year that Clemson has that home game, it will be against a better opponent possibly on TV. Clemson would likely be favored perhaps heavily every single year over whoever the coastal opponent would be so it's not as if the risk of losing increases that much by playing UVa or Duke more often instead of SCST.

2) This vote will not be unanimous. Use that to your advantage. If I'm Clemson I would leverage their vote by saying "we'll give you our vote for 9 games if the ACC always gives us ND to start the season prime-time Labor Day weekend when it's our year to play them. Then the other years you can still schedule Auburn/UGA/whoever on that weekend as always. ND to start the season prime-time every 3 years??? That's huge.

3) Sticking to 8 GUARANTEES that the current 6-1-1 divisional alignment is blown up. It's inevitable b/c of how many years it takes to cycle through league opponents and that's the 1 and only thing the conference is unanimous on changing. Why is the divisional alignment important? B/c Clemson would have to fight/argue for an annual game with FSU in any new scheduling scenario. It makes the most sense for the ACC to keep that as an annual game b/c of TV interest, but 6 other schools play FSU on an annual basis right now and they may not be willing to give that up either. Miami already gets top priority for permanent partner status. Dabo says any scheduling scenario MUST include an annual FSU game. He already has that. Why do anything that could jeopardize it? 9 games means keeping the divisional structure, the FSU game, and playing every team in a 3-year period. And you give up practically nothing.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

4) 9 games means a richer TV deal. TV money drove expansion. That's the only reason that the ACC went to Boston, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Why enter new media markets and not offer more games given the opportunity? Why not have another opportunity for Clemson to be on TV? No one will watch the Clemson-SCST game except the people in the stadium. That does nothing for the Clemson brand. It would be interesting to know the numbers but I'm betting that the increase in TV money from a 9-game ACC schedule vs an 8-game ACC schedule is more than the loss of revenue from 1 home game every 2 years.

5) The NCAA isn't guaranteed to deregulate conference championship rules. How slow is the NCAA to adapt? How long did it take for a 4-team playoff to come to fruition? A 3-5 scenario or any other scenario that's more appetizing than a 9-game schedule depends on the NCAA to change and we could all be dead before that happens.

Clemson should take the 9-game schedule and give up a home game against SCST every other year. A bird in the hand.

lhaselden writes:

I agree that the 9 game conference schedule will be an increase in TV money, but it increases gate receipts as well.... The conference games are a premium compared to SCSt or BallSt, or Middle Tenn St. having Miami VaT or UNC at home every other year would make up for lost revenue of one less home game every other year.
But the increased TV revenue from 7 conference games would cover it as well! Also we need to consider TV exposure in the PITT and SYR and Va markets every year rather than every 5 or 6 years.

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to YabbaDaboDooDoo:

I don't get Dabo's reasoning for sticking to 8... at all. Here's why:

1) What is Clemson giving up by going to 9 games? Currently they play 12 games: 8 conference games, South Carolina, a late-August SEC opponent to kickoff the season, and 2 in-state 1-AA schools. A 9-game schedule would simply replace an in-state cupcake with a coastal division opponent. The ONLY thing Clemson gives up is 1 home game every 2 years. And in the year that Clemson has that home game, it will be against a better opponent possibly on TV. Clemson would likely be favored perhaps heavily every single year over whoever the coastal opponent would be so it's not as if the risk of losing increases that much by playing UVa or Duke more often instead of SCST.

2) This vote will not be unanimous. Use that to your advantage. If I'm Clemson I would leverage their vote by saying "we'll give you our vote for 9 games if the ACC always gives us ND to start the season prime-time Labor Day weekend when it's our year to play them. Then the other years you can still schedule Auburn/UGA/whoever on that weekend as always. ND to start the season prime-time every 3 years??? That's huge.

3) Sticking to 8 GUARANTEES that the current 6-1-1 divisional alignment is blown up. It's inevitable b/c of how many years it takes to cycle through league opponents and that's the 1 and only thing the conference is unanimous on changing. Why is the divisional alignment important? B/c Clemson would have to fight/argue for an annual game with FSU in any new scheduling scenario. It makes the most sense for the ACC to keep that as an annual game b/c of TV interest, but 6 other schools play FSU on an annual basis right now and they may not be willing to give that up either. Miami already gets top priority for permanent partner status. Dabo says any scheduling scenario MUST include an annual FSU game. He already has that. Why do anything that could jeopardize it? 9 games means keeping the divisional structure, the FSU game, and playing every team in a 3-year period. And you give up practically nothing.

You're underestimating the importance of giving up that 7th home game every other year. Not only does losing that slot make it more difficult to schedule upper tier non-conf opponents like UGA, Aub, A&M and TCU because you may not be able to commit to giving them a return game at their place, it also has a significant impact on the local economy---At an average of 70,000 fans each spending a conservative amount of $50 while in town adds up to about $3.5M lost from the local economy.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

You're underestimating the importance of giving up that 7th home game every other year. Not only does losing that slot make it more difficult to schedule upper tier non-conf opponents like UGA, Aub, A&M and TCU because you may not be able to commit to giving them a return game at their place, it also has a significant impact on the local economy---At an average of 70,000 fans each spending a conservative amount of $50 while in town adds up to about $3.5M lost from the local economy.

How is scheduling impacted? You're only going to schedule 2 power conference opponents. 1 is SC and that date is locked in. The other date has been week 1. Look at your schedules over the previous seasons. Every year that you schedule an upper tier power conference opponent, it's been played to start the season. The only exception is TCU in 2009. The ACC isn't going to make you play Duke or UVa in week 1. It would be 1 of your cupcake games either right before what would've been your first ACC game or right before you play SC.

Besides that, the SEC just gave Clemson a GIFT when it comes to scheduling by MANDATING that the SEC play a team from the other 4 power conferences. Clemson's proximity to the SEC and history of scheduling week 1 games against UGA, Auburn, Alabama, and TX A&M only makes it MORE likely to continue scheduling those games on Labor Day weekend. UGA and Auburn aren't going to fly to the PAC12, Big10, or Big12 when they can take a bus ride to Clemson.

There's no denying that 1 less home game hurts. My point is that the added revenue from a richer TV deal should more than make up for losing what's basically half of a home game. Keep in mind that there's an incredible amount of interest in an ACC channel also. TV drives sports in 2014, not gate receipts. That's the way it is in the NFL. That's the way it has become in college football. Look at it this way. Tennessee has been filling up a 100,000 seat stadium for decades. But the SEC didn't get rich until they negotiated their massive TV deal. Texas only played 6 home games this season and they averaged 95,000 fans. So they didn't hypothetically lose gate money by not playing a 7th home game. They DID lose money and they don't care. They're thriving. The bigger picture is more important here. TV brings more money and the more money that flows into the athletic department, the more money that can potentially go back into the local community.

Xander5000 writes:

in response to YabbaDaboDooDoo:

How is scheduling impacted? You're only going to schedule 2 power conference opponents. 1 is SC and that date is locked in. The other date has been week 1. Look at your schedules over the previous seasons. Every year that you schedule an upper tier power conference opponent, it's been played to start the season. The only exception is TCU in 2009. The ACC isn't going to make you play Duke or UVa in week 1. It would be 1 of your cupcake games either right before what would've been your first ACC game or right before you play SC.

Besides that, the SEC just gave Clemson a GIFT when it comes to scheduling by MANDATING that the SEC play a team from the other 4 power conferences. Clemson's proximity to the SEC and history of scheduling week 1 games against UGA, Auburn, Alabama, and TX A&M only makes it MORE likely to continue scheduling those games on Labor Day weekend. UGA and Auburn aren't going to fly to the PAC12, Big10, or Big12 when they can take a bus ride to Clemson.

There's no denying that 1 less home game hurts. My point is that the added revenue from a richer TV deal should more than make up for losing what's basically half of a home game. Keep in mind that there's an incredible amount of interest in an ACC channel also. TV drives sports in 2014, not gate receipts. That's the way it is in the NFL. That's the way it has become in college football. Look at it this way. Tennessee has been filling up a 100,000 seat stadium for decades. But the SEC didn't get rich until they negotiated their massive TV deal. Texas only played 6 home games this season and they averaged 95,000 fans. So they didn't hypothetically lose gate money by not playing a 7th home game. They DID lose money and they don't care. They're thriving. The bigger picture is more important here. TV brings more money and the more money that flows into the athletic department, the more money that can potentially go back into the local community.

Cal and Oregon flew to Tennessee and Tennessee returned the favor. LSU went to Washington and Arizona State and Washington and Arizona State returned the favor. Georgia has been to Colorado, Arizona State and Oklahoma State. And again they returned the favor. It can be done. I wish Clemson and all the teams will do this kind of thing more regularly as well. Play your one Egg Nog Valley State first then play a power out-of-conference game with a home and home deal. The SEC is not the only power conference team to play. True, it is great to play them for the sake of southern rivalry and competition but the SEC have been known to bail out of these games as well so they can have two more super easy ones.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

in response to Xander5000:

Cal and Oregon flew to Tennessee and Tennessee returned the favor. LSU went to Washington and Arizona State and Washington and Arizona State returned the favor. Georgia has been to Colorado, Arizona State and Oklahoma State. And again they returned the favor. It can be done. I wish Clemson and all the teams will do this kind of thing more regularly as well. Play your one Egg Nog Valley State first then play a power out-of-conference game with a home and home deal. The SEC is not the only power conference team to play. True, it is great to play them for the sake of southern rivalry and competition but the SEC have been known to bail out of these games as well so they can have two more super easy ones.

Georgia has and will play other teams but they're going to regularly schedule Clemson b/c of the low travel cost and the proximity of fans. It's an easy game to schedule for Labor Day weekend. You want to play Egg Nog Valley State to start the year then you're burning money. You play a big game to kickoff the season and get on TV then play your in-state handout.

The SEC can't bail out of these games. They just mandated that they have to play a power conference game. Under their self-imposed mandate, if they bail out of a scheduled game with Clemson then they have to scramble to fill it with another power conference school.

YabbaDaboDooDoo writes:

The PAC12 just blasted the SEC today for NOT playing a 9-game schedule. The Big12, Big10, and PAC12 are going to a 9-game schedule. The SEC can probably afford to play an 8-game schedule and not be penalized when it comes to factoring in strength-of-schedule for playoff selection b/c their conference is so much stronger than the rest of the nation. The ACC most definitely CAN NOT! A 9-game schedule takes a cream puff off the schedule and replaces it with a tougher game all while strengthening your media bargaining position. Times are changing. Change with them or get left behind.

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