ACC Winter Meetings Recap- The Nine Game Conference Schedule
While everyone was caught up in the hype of the Super Bowl (or changing the channel and tuning into Downton Abbey instead), the ACC quietly had their winter meetings at the end of last week. On the agenda? A number of different things that could drastically shape the future of the league. Today, we talk about the return of the nine game conference schedule. Not a lot has been reported regarding the meetings, so this is only discussion and speculation right now.
The Return of the Nine Game Conference Schedule- The arguments on both sides are pretty old. A nine game conference schedule has its benefits and its issues. But the issue just hasn’t gone away, with ADs at Georgia Tech and Miami recently discussing the move.
PROS- Because of the current 6-1-1 scheduling model that the ACC holds, along with its divisional alignment, teams in the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions sometimes go 12 years without seeing each other at home. That’s ridiculous. That’s not a conference. Additional league games would allow teams to visit each other more frequently, creating more exciting matchups for fans and a better sense of unity between league schools. It could also potentially help with strength of schedule for teams that generally don’t play difficult opponents out of conference, although that’s completely matchup dependent. Finally, it would make scheduling easier and more predictable for athletic directors since they wouldn’t have to find as many schools to play each year.
CONS- When Notre Dame announced that it was joining the ACC in 2012, the league dropped its planned move to a nine game conference schedule. Why? Because teams like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech weren’t happy with the possibility of playing nine ACC games, an SEC rival and Notre Dame (as part of their 5-game scheduling agreement) in one season. That’s an understandable concern, along with a feeling that it would be difficult to get to 7 home games each season, a number many teams need to get to in order to break even. Many fans would also miss the opportunity to play marquee non-conference opponents because their teams would most certainly schedule easier programs to fill the remaining spots.
THE FINAL VERDICT- This is probably, at some point, inevitable. Along with the talk of ESPN wanting inventory for the proposed ACC Network, the majority of other conferences have already made the switch (Pac-12, Big 12, Big 10). That makes out of conference scheduling harder for ACC teams unless they want to play more easy programs, which let’s be honest- are really boring, even as home games. The additional money from ESPN and a more attractive schedule (leading to better ticket sales), could easily make up for the potential loss of a home game and creative scheduling is always a possibility to preserve it. It would be great to play teams in the opposing division more frequently, and if the non-divisional format is approved, this could be even better. Depending on the playoff qualifications, Notre Dame’s hand may be forced anyway, leaving them as just another part of the nine game schedule.
ANOTHER POTENTIAL OTHER SOLUTION- If the ACC wants to retain an eight game schedule, they should seriously consider additional partnerships, or challenges like the one they have in basketball. An ACC-SEC Challenge for the Southern teams would be difficult, but the potential reward is massive, the scheduling easier and the matchups exciting. An ACC-B1G Challenge for the Northern teams would be just as great. Imagine something similar to this-
ACC SEC ACC Big Ten
Florida State Florida* Virginia Maryland
Georgia Tech Georgia* Pittsburgh Penn State
Clemson South Carolina* Notre Dame Michigan State
Louisville Kentucky* Syracuse Rutgers
Wake Forest Vanderbilt Boston College Ohio State
North Carolina Tennessee
Virginia Tech Alabama
NC State LSU
No matter what the ACC decides regarding the nine game conference schedule, some people will be unhappy. That’s just the reality of it. But ultimately, the ACC will decide what best fits its needs right now. At the start of 2012, that was a nine game schedule. At the end of 2012, that was an eight game schedule due to the new Notre Dame partnership. It really could go either way, but all sources would point to the league’s inevitable adoption of this policy.
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