The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Three Divisions for ACC Football?

With the likely elimination of the strict championship game rules, the table is set for the ACC to go way out of its way to make football more competitive.  In fact, one option is to go to three divisions.  From there, the two best teams could play for the ACC Championship.  The  Confidential loves this idea.  First, it paves the way for ND football to be more intertwined with ACC football.  Second, it increases the likelihood that the two best ACC teams play for the right to move on to the playoffs.  Here are the Confidential’s other thoughts…

First, let’s take ND off the table.  They are not going to join full-time.  Yet.

Second, but ND does have a 5-game requirement.  If you have three 5-team divisions, then ND can just play one division every year.

Third, we need a 15th school.  How about UCONN?  Middling football, but pretty good 16th basketball school.  The ACC just took in $35M from a nice hoops showing.  If so, that leads to this:

  • South: Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, Wake Forest
  • North: Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, BC, UConn
  • Central: UVA, Va Tech, UNC, Duke, NC State

Play your own division (4 games) and two from each other division (4 more games) for 8 conference games, 9 if you play Notre Dame.  Of course, if ND was willing to bump up to 6 conference games (in exchange for being considered for the ACC championship game), they could just play 2 teams from each division.  That would be interesting also.

Fourth, is Division 1 stacked and Wake Forest screwed?  Yes and yes.  Is Division 2 potentially weak?  Probably.  But if Va Tech is off its game still and Duke regresses to the mean, Division 3 may be even weaker.

Finally, does any of this matter?  No.  The two best teams based on overall record could and should play for it all, regardless of division.  It could be FSU and Clemson in a rematch.  It could be Duke and BC.  It could be Notre Dame and someone else.  Who knows?

What do you think?   If divisional requirements are relaxed, what if anything do you want the ACC to do?



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31 thoughts on “Three Divisions for ACC Football?

  1. Chris Stiles on said:

    I can tell you right now Wake won’t like this because you’re splitting them up from other 3 NC schools. And not just because the other 3 NC schools would be easier opposition than Clemson, GT, FSU, Miami, but for “backyard” reasons, if you will. Yeah, I know the “Big 4” are currently split, but everyone plays at least two out of the other three each year due to the “natural interdivision” rivalries.

    • Wake is a flea on the tail that should not be allowed to otherwise wag the dog.

      • brianfsu9 on said:

        I have a different proposal down below, that should address the Wake issue. That being said I agree with acaffrey, Wake brings little to the table for the ACC and should be glad to be in a power 5 conference. They have little room to demand anything. Most of the rest of the conference has strong education to prop up the overall conference rankings, and other than that one thing what does Wake bring? Honestly other than education Wake generally subtracts from the strength of this conference, and I do think their educaitonal value outweighs the major drawbacks of the school for the ACC. Their brand name is probably the weakest. Their alumni base is tiny. They share a state with 3 other bigger schools in the conference, so they earn 0 tv money. Also, generally every non-NC ACC school groans when they see Wake on their schedule… they bring 0 sexiness to the schedule. Honestly, the ACC would be better off without Wake. I would take any of these schools over Wake: UCONN, Cinci, Houston, WVU, MD, ND, PSU, Texas, Rutgers… etc. Of course kicking Wake out is impossible, so we are stuck with them… but they should have little say in these types of decisions. It should be what is best for the conference first, then what the big boys of the conference want to keep them happy, and then go to the Wakes of the world. Its not like Wake has a home outside of the ACC within the Power 5. Reality sucks, the days of worrying what all of the NC schools want first at the expense of the rest of the ACC should be dead. Now if we can make it work (like my proposal does), not piss off royally the big players of the conference (FSU, UNC, CU, UM, VT… Duke), and help Wake, then by all means do it. Also, no one can say Duke and UNC would be that pissed off if they didn’t play Wake going forward, they have lived with that reality for years, football is not too important to those schools, and they seem to have found workarounds.

  2. hhuntley17 on said:

    The working theory is to have Notre Dame join “full time” by just playing a division each year. Like it or not, this seems like a play to get them to our conference title game.

    • brianfsu9 on said:

      I am not sure how that would work. How can they be both ind in football and eligible for the conference title game in football. Either they are full in or they are not. Also, the math doesn’t add up. You would have 15 ACC schools (UNCONN/Cinci) joining, and then on top of that ND playing in conference games as a 16th school, but not a 16 school in a 3 division format??? My head hurts now.

  3. So with the “top-2” records in the championship, the divisions would be only for scheduling purposes. That makes the divisions pretty irrelevant.
    Also, ND should not be allowed near the championship game until and unless they commit to full membership. The league has already bent over backwards to get them to “associate” status.
    Finally, per Anthony’s comment, that flea has been in this conference for a long time and should not be dismissed as a second-class citizen.
    Wow, I am grumpy tonight!!

  4. No to 3 divisions.
    No to Notre Dame in the ACC CG without being a full football member.
    No to UConn.
    No, no, no!
    (other than that, I’m all for it!)

    • I’m OK with 3 divisions, if they make sense with respect to geography, rivalries, powers,etc.. and if you have a system in place that doesn’t leave out an undefeated Duke (for example) in favor of a 1-loss ND or something because the latter has a better national ranking.

      I agree regarding ND: no CG w/o being a full member.
      Agree – no UConn.

      I know that I’m in the minority here, but if the ACC is adding someone from the Group of 5, then I would rather see Navy added. They are OK in football and traditionally play ND annually. The Army/Navy game is a huge event and would be a good add to the ACC. They help w/ the Maryland/DC region and literally have viewers around the world. While they don’t add much to basketball, we would get to add Adml. David Robinson alongside Derick Coleman to the list of “famous ACC players”. They do have a lax team that would give the ACC a 6th member (not that it matters that much).

      • If not Navy, then my top expansion targets would be:

        Villanova: excellent basketball, high-potential w/ football (better than Temple), men’s lax #6 in a region where lacrosse is very popular, in a new TV market (Philly/DE/NJ). Also puts a dent in Big East’s conference which is nice.

        Cincinnati: Great basketball, good football; access to Ohio recruits and new TV markets.


        • brianfsu9 on said:

          I agree with Cinci. If it can’t be cinci, then UCONN (but I would not love it).

          Navy is no dice for me, UNLESS ND makes that a condition to be full on members. If so, we do what we have to do. I do not like Navy because they would be killed over the long ACC season in football if not all sports. It is one thing to occasionally play a big boy, but to play 8 of them a year… not so easy. Remember the recruiting issues of a military school. Navy will struggle in lower tier conference play, and will be an afterthought in the ACC. We do not need another cupcake in football. Also, the Army Navy game will be hard to cash in on, since that is treated as a neutral site game. How would that even work paywise? Also, NBC owns the right to that game I believe, so how would that play with the ACC/ESPN deal?

          I don’t like Nova. ACC is more than fine in basketball, and we do not need to make a decision just for basketball. As far as football they would suck for 10+ years, and that is best case. Also, we have inroads into Penn with Pitt, and I doubt Nova is changing our numbers too much there. I feel Nova is dead weight.

      • hhuntley17 on said:

        To be honest, there really isn’t a good candidate for expansion right now. We already have enough 1 dimensional teams. VT, GT, and others aren’t competitive in basketball and Syracuse, UVA, and others aren’t competitive in football. This is why Louisville and Notre Dame made sense because they can play both sports (regardless of ND’s partial membership). I think unless we can find a team that plays both sports at a high level, the conference is staying at 15.

        I think Cincinnati is the only school with a chance at this point. The only drawback to them in the past has been academics but with Louisville it seems the conference stopped caring about academics. Add in a pretty big TV market and this seems to make the most sense.

        Outside of them, I don’t see the conference adding anyone outside of a big name like Texas or South Carolina, but it doesn’t seem like any P5 teams are looking at moving around.

        • brianfsu9 on said:

          I agree. I will add, one thing to consider in all this expansion talk is UT. I doubt UT ever joins fully or not in our lifetime, but I do not think it is insane to think UT could consider a ND type deal. If ESPN talks about pulling the plug w/ the LHN then UT may consider jumping ship. Odds are for that to happen ESPN would have to feel that UT does not play in enough big markets outside of Texas to warrant the high costs. Their have been rumors for 2 years now that ESPN is not in love with the cost of the LHN. I could see ESPN pressuring LHN to find a way to get more national exposure, or it will pull the plug. If so I could see UT rethinking the Big 12 ties with its tiny markets. If UT could get a deal where it always plays Okl and 2-3 other regular rivals and plays 5 non-conf ACC games like ND, and then moves its olympic sports to the ACC while being allowed to keep its LHN for certain things and home games, and allowed to cut a separate tv football contract for home games, then I could UT rethinking its big 12 membership. Remember those rumors of UT expressing interest in the ACC a few years back. Most thought those were crazy, but UT cares about its network and TV money above all else, so who knows.

        • Add… Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Okie State. Texas goes ND. 4 divisions of 5:

          Texas (division opponents plus 2 other games)
          Okie State
          Texas Tech

          ND (Division opponents plus 2 other games)

          Va Tech

          Ga Tech
          NC State
          Wake Forest

          Two teams with best overall records play for ACC championship.

          Division anchors: FSU/Clemson & Va Tech/Louisville & ND/Miami & Texas/Oklahoma. Not too shabby.

  5. Okay, I am ignoring ND in my response, because frankly my head hurts trying to figure out how it might work, assuming ND continues to be quasi-ind. As my grandpa said, they need to fax something to Cleveland or get off the pot.

    I think if we need to add a 15th full time member, it should be Cinci over UCONN. They are committing to Football, are in a great state for recruiting grounds, and get us into some fairly football crazy markets. Whereas UCONN is in a state with 0 football talent (other than the family who has a famous ex-Patriot on trial for murder) born in the state. Also, if we are being honest UCONN is not really bringing in the NYC market. The NYC Market for College Football is Moby Dick, and no one is ever going truly own that city in terms of ratings. College football is never going to be big there, so let’s not bring in dead weight in the hopes the ACC owns NYC in football. I also did not like some of the comments and actions from UCONN when other schools left the BE. Also, from what I gather on most blogs and message boards UCONN alumni/fans are openly hostile to football schools in our conference, and would resent the FSUs and Clemsons of the world. Many UCONN fans solely blame FSU for Louisville getting the nod over UCONN. Finally, UCONN has far more sore feelings about the BE imploding than Cinci, so I suspect a relationship with them would just continue to be rocky. Besides, according to UCONN fans they think the BIG is about to bring them in, so let that happen.

    As far as your breakdown in divisions. Generally in a 2 division format, I would support your idea of Geographic alignment, but I am against it in a 3 division format. If one of 2 divisions is stronger in a 2 division format, that is fine because you still provide a decent opportunity for an elite program to get in the title game every year. Also, no matter how strong the division is in a 2 division conference with 14+ teams, some of the teams in the division will suck to offset the dominant programs. But in a 3 division league, where you have the top 3 programs in terms of ability to recruit (FSU, Clemson, UM), and probably 4 of the top 6 programs in the entire conference (FSU, UM, Clemson, and GT), every game in that division will essentially be a slug fest. Compare that to VT and Louisville in their respective divisions who will over time have mostly cake walks (sorry Duke has a history of sucking… Pitt/Syc have never come close again to their golden years… UNC, UVA, BC, NCSU, UCONN/CINCI are all meh). Odds are 7 out of 10 years it will be a Louisville and VT showdown, and considering FSU, Clemson, and UM are the big 3 brand names of the ACC, that is not a good thing for tv money and playoff success for the ACC. You should probably balance things out a little more. I would say it should be, assuming Cinci is the selection:

    FSU, Clemson, UVA, UNC, Duke

    Louisville, Pitt, Syc, Cinci, UM

    Wake, VT GT, BC, NCSU

    I would then state that along with the 4 division games each year, that each team has 2 “cross over games” that are played to preserve (mostly) rivalries. These would be the preserved games:

    1) FSU-UM
    2) Syc-Wake
    3) Clemson-NCSU
    4) Clemson-GT
    5) UVA-VT
    6) UVA-Pitt
    7) UNC-NCSU
    8) UNC-Cinci
    9) Duke-Wake
    10) Duke-Cinci
    11) Louisville-BC
    12) Louisville-FSU
    13) Pitt-GT
    14) Syracuse-BC
    15) UM-VT

    That makes 6 conf games per school. The remaining 2 conference games (or 3 if we go to 9), would be with teams not a part of the cross over. It would 7 teams rotated into those 2 spots over a 3 to 4 year period. If you notice no northern team will not play a southern team for more than 3 years (maybe 4 at the most), so that helps for recruiting for everyone. Almost all rivalries are preserved. Unfortunately FSU-GT could not happen to make it work. I also had to sacrifice UNC vs. Wake. I figured since they plan to play non-conf anyway, we can just live with that for now, plus they will be assured to play at least every 4 years if not sooner. The biggest advantage of my breakdown is fairly even historical power distribution.

    • First off, let me just state that I’m a Hokie through and through with some SJSU due to my undergrad degree, but my heart will always be with VT and the Drill Field.

      That being said, I think there are some things that are being missed concerning UConn that I feel needs to be brought before the community.

      1) Yes, their football is bad. I mean, bad and I get that, but its a project and there is no sense in denying that.
      2) They HATE BC. I mean really HATE BC for blocking them into the ACC. This hate is followed by FSU, Louisville and Syracuse. But I believe this is actually a positive. Can you imagine the turn-out the first time BC comes to UConn. I would watch that game just to see the frenzy amongst the fans and the hard hits that come with such a game. And that kind of strong emotional connection would translate into butts in seats that would be good for TV.
      3) UConn may not bring the NYC market, but if they were a full member of the ACC, they would add at least 150,150 fans in NYC (2011 numbers from Nate Silver). They are the fourth most popular college football team in NYC. Now add UConn with Syracuse, Boston College and Miami and we have 26% of the college viewers in NYC. That would certainly help ESPN consider an ACCN.

      Now I realize that adding UConn without ND is a non-starter, heck adding any school without ND would be a non-starter for most ACC fans, but I think that pursuing ND as a full-time member is a fool’s errand. The only way that ND is going to join the ACC as a full member is if they have a couple of 12-0 seasons in college football and they are still passed for a slot in the CFB playoffs each and every time. Then, and only then, do I see ND joining the ACC.

  6. Here’s a crazy idea; abolish the NCAA completely and let the remaining teams form one autonomous conference, pool their resources to leverage TV/media rights, and then create entirely new divisions within that conference based on geography, history, rivalries, etc…

    I’m sure that if given the opportunity that schools that have been hammered/harassed by the NCAA like USC, PSU, Miami, Syracuse, and UNC would go start their own conference, with their own rules, and cut out the middle-man. Since the NCAA supplied the refs for the Championship Game, perhaps Wisconsin would want to somewhere that is so corrupted.

  7. ren.hoek on said:

    I don’t say this lightly…ND qualifying for the title game with less than a full conference schedule is by far and away the dumbest idea in the blogosphere today. Think about how the rest of the conference would groan over them playing in the title game after only 4-6 games. Also, have you considered that if ND plays their 4 division mates and 1 cross divisional game, it takes 10 years to play everyone? Contrast that with getting them every 3 years like we do now. Think ticket sales and revenue associated with ND coming to town. No way any AD goes for that, no matter how dumb or inept they might be.

    And, once again, H3LL no to UConn. Keep your putrid football program and your d-bag former AG, now senator that burned the bridges with lawsuits.

    • You need to get out on the blogosphere more if you think ND in the championship game is the dumbest idea. The goal is to raise the profile of the winner of the championship game… that way, a 12-1 ACC team is in the playoffs (see TCU and Baylor at 11-1 and outside). Florida State beating Duke and Georgia Tech does not move the needle. Beating a great ND team would. And if folks want ND to NOT be in that game, just make sure that ND does not have the 2nd best record. That’s easy.

      • ren.hoek on said:

        ND in the championship game is a great idea…as long as they take the same path as everyone else (i.e. full conference schedule). allowing them to be eligible with less than a full acc schedule is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. it’s so far out in la-la land. no offense, but it’s ludicrous, tin foil hat type stuff to me. it would fly in the face of “competitive ethics” to allow a team that played less teams to be in the title game. if they’re in at 5-0 or 6-0, it would be a travesty for a 7-1 team to be left out. I don’t know if even swarbick could agree to it in good conscience.

        I would bet my 401k that no AD would even consider it, much less agree to it. it’s even more unlikely than ND giving up their football independence.

        i’ll again point out that in that arrangement, ND only plays their non-divisional rivals every 10 years, which is far worse than the every 3 years we have now.

        • ND in the championship game is a great idea…as long as they take the same path as everyone else (i.e. full conference schedule). allowing them to be eligible with less than a full acc schedule is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.


          I think it would largely depend on who ND plays; lets face it, there are a lot of weak teams in the bottom half of the ACC (and I say that as a Syracuse fan).

          Lets say that Duke goes 8-0 against Wake, SU, Pitt, UNC, BC, UVA, VPI, and NCSt.

          Whereas ND Could go 5-0 against FSU, Clemson, LVille, BC, and UNC; wouldn’t that make them more deserving of a title game against Duke?

          Or would you rather a 1 loss FSU/Clemson risk beating Duke and the ACC getting excluded from the Playoffs?

        • ren.hoek on said:

          it’s inherently unfair to allow a team into the title game if they played 3 less conference games to get there. it’s a ridiculous concept. no AD would ever agree to it. I tweeted david teel about it (beat reporter in VA, deeply tied into all things ACC) and his response was an something like “who wrote such a thing?” it would literally destroy the conference from within. I’m all in favor of the current 5 game/year arrangement because it’s mutually beneficial, but this suggestion is in a totally different ballpark, sport, planet and galaxy.

          ND may decide to go all in because the ACC could offer them a pretty national schedule: play 1 team from FL per year, 1 team from VA per year, 2 teams from NC per year, 1 or 2 NE teams per year, in addition to their games against USC and Stanford. I can see how that would be enticing to them since they want to be a national program rather than a regional program.

        • You fully underestimate Notre Dame’s power and prestige, as well as the $$$$ that would flow to any championship game that could even potentially involve Notre Dame. The ADs don’t make these decisions, the Presidents do. That is why Rutgers is in the Big 10 (academics, demographics), rather than Oklahoma. Is it a slam dunk? Heck no. But it is worth considering–even if rejected. Also, Notre Dame’s primary rivals are USC and Navy. Not Stanford.

  8. ren.hoek on said:

    ND likes playing both USC and Stanford (one at home, the other away) so they play in the state of CA every season. It helps them recruit nationally and carries on their desire to be a national program rather than a regional one. They would be reluctant to part with that game for those reasons. Granted, it’s not as big of a rivalry as USC. A full ACC schedule could give them similar exposure all along the east coast. That’s a pretty nice carrot to dangle in front of them.

    ND has extraordinary power and prestige. But the ACC title game would be a farce if they didn’t play by the same rules as everyone else. It would be a national punch line in the media. I’m giddy to have them in the ACC, but nobody, ADs, presidents or Swarbick himself, would EVER consider it, much less agree to it. It would sow seeds of discontent across the conference. It would likely encourage a few schools decline to renew the GOR next time around. Teel thinks it’s just as ludicrous as I do. But you seem to be enjoying the kool aid. Cheers!

    • What kool-aid?

      • I believe, IMHO, that he is referring to the ACC bloggers earnest belief that ND will join the ACC full time in football.

        IMHO, it is never going to happen dear sports fans. So let us stop giving ND more benefits, like access to ACCCG without playing a full conference schedule.

        The best thing the ACC can do is just keep telling themselves that ND is ND and just accept it as an associate. Then plan accordingly. What U find most alarmingly is that none of the ACC bloggers seemy overly concerned that an ACC champ with a 12-1 record will be left out of the CFP playoff spot.

        • I meant, “What I find most alarmingly….” in the last paragraph.

        • ren.hoek on said:

          actually, the kool aid I was referring to is ND being eligible for the title game with less than a full conference schedule being possible. not even a remote possibility for the reasons I’ve beaten into the ground 😉

          also heard from teel again. no word from any source (credible or not) that it would be considered.

        • Wow… are you serious? See this article: ACC says no to Notre Dame in 2011, but yes in 2012. Eventually, $$$ talks. One year later, Notre Dame was in. Reporters report, bloggers opine. I am opining. I enjoy the discussion and debate, but citing a reporter is pointless.

        • ren.hoek on said:

          good article to reference for discussion. a few points…

          1. the acc did indeed flip flop on the all-in or nothing membership. they’ve made one exception for ND with the strings attached being 5 ACC opponents per year specified by the ACC. mutually beneficial, scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours.

          2. ND is just a normal, “joe schmo” member in the non football sports. there are no sweetheart deals for scheduling or revenue. they play the same conference schedule and get the same size piece of pie for non football sports as every other member. that’s a critical point to this. bottom line – ND is not treated any differently in any sport where they compete for conference titles. that is a key distinction to when considering the current partial membership deal.

          3. allowing them to compete for the football championship with less than a full schedule would be a radical departure from #2. imagine the outcry from the coaches. it would truly be a national laughing stock in the media to make such a provision.

          4. it’s in nobody’s best interest to allow such a deal. the rest of the conference would be at a disadvantage for playing more games to get to the title game. ND’s conference home would become very unstable as discontent would fester with each passing minute. the GOR would likely not be renewed and it would be open season for poaching. that may very well be the one thing that would drive Clemson and FSU into the arms of the Big 12. GT and Louisville would likely follow in that case.

          5. connecting the dots, swoffy said they like having divisions, but want flexibility. to me, that means you might not play everyone in your division. 2 permanent and 3 rotating in your division, 1 permanent and 2 rotating in the opposite division would allow you to play everyone in 3 years. not playing everyone in your division might defeat the purpose of having divisions, but playing 5 out of 6 might be close enough. that’s me speculating, tho. for the record, I would prefer 3 permanent and 5 rotating with no divisions.

        • Agree. Letting ND access to the ACCCG without it playing a full conference schedule is just begging for the growth of discontent that could very well drive VT to the SEC. I’d rather VT stays with the ACC, but not if we are treated as second class citizens.

  9. Has anyone recently found an article concerning the economics of a conference sports nerwork? I understand how the basics of the BTN and their carriage fees, but I wonder how cord cutting and now all the La Carte services that are coming on line if a conference network still makes sense. Thanks to all the reply.

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