With the ACC league meetings coming up May 12-15, here are some interesting tidbits on scheduling that could affect the ACC’s decisions on future scheduling.
You may recall recently that ESPN reported that the ACC and SEC have considered an 8+1 scheduling agreement where every ACC team would play eight league games plus one SEC opponent each season (click here for a refresher).
There have been other comments about the scheduling this past week.
The Southeastern Conference on Sunday announced the format for future football scheduling that is a continuation of the existing format and adds a strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis. The announcement comes after a vote of the league’s institutions.
Each SEC team will continue to play eight conference football games per season, to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents. One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.
In addition, at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 must be scheduled by each SEC school on an annual basis beginning in 2016, with assistance from the conference office.
“This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule,” said Commissioner Mike Slive. “Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.
The decision to maintain an eight-game conference schedule allows for a number of other advantages:
• A balanced league schedule for all teams – equal home and away conference games (four home and four away); a nine-game schedule would have resulted in some teams with five home games and others with four on an annual basis
• Accommodates varying institutional non-conference scheduling philosophies
• Allows for marquee neutral site games – the popularity of neutral site games has grown in recent years, as evidenced by large crowds and significant TV ratings for those games that feature major intersectional opponents.
“Tradition matters in the SEC, and there is no denying that tradition was a significant factor in this decision because it protects several long-standing cross-division conference rivalries,” said Slive. “It has been a hallmark of the SEC over our history to be able to make continued progress while also maintaining traditions important to our institutions.”
The decision to maintain a permanent non-division opponent also presents other advantages:
• Creates annual cross-division rivalries that otherwise would not be annual games
• Provides each team with a traditional opponent for the final weekend of the season
Jeremy Fowler (CBSSports.com):
Unintended or not, the ACC and SEC could become a de facto package deal on the looming 8-vs. 9-game decisions for both conferences.
The ACC is closely watching how the SEC handles its scheduling format and will take that into consideration when it meets as a league May 13 in Amelia Island, Fla., sources said.
The SEC is expected to finalize its plans by early May.
If the SEC goes to nine, that shrinks the ACC’s pool of non-conference opponents.
If the SEC stays at eight, that clears the lane for the ACC to remain in its current setup and strengthen what a high-ranking source calls a “mutual interest in scheduling each other” in the future.
One concept, according to the source, would keep the ACC to stay at eight under the stipulation that each team play at least one power conference team each year, hopefully more. The ACC and SEC already play several traditional rivalries such as Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Louisville-Kentucky and Clemson-South Carolina.
The ACC can justify eight games because of its partnership with Notre Dame, which plays five league opponents per season, in rotation. But a handful of athletic directors and coaches prefer a move to nine.
Michael Felder (BleacherReport.com):
That leaves the SEC and the ACC as the two conferences sitting at eight-game schedules, each with 14 teams in its league.
However, the ACC sits in a unique position to fight off the eight-game conference schedule thanks to the welcoming of Notre Dame into the fold. Starting with this coming season, the Fighting Irish will battle ACC teams as an additional, built-in portion of the schedule. Unable to get out of a game to take on five in 2014, the Irish play six ACC teams in 2015 before settling into the five-team rotation wholly in 2016.
On the Notre Dame side, it gives them access to more bowls and helps flesh out a schedule, something becoming a bit more difficult as major teams move to nine-game schedules. For the ACC, it means five of the league’s teams will have nine games against quality competition a season. In the case of teams like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, that means 10 quality contests, thanks to the addition of in-state rivals.
Heather Dinich (ESPN.com):
ACC coaches are in favor of sticking with an eight-game league schedule as the conference prepares to again debate an eight- or nine-game format at next month’s spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., according to Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who is chair of the ACC coaches’ committee.
“I think it’s going to be debated, I will say that,” Cutcliffe said on Wednesday’s spring ACC coaches’ teleconference. “I wouldn’t be being truthful if I didn’t tell you the coaches lean heavily towards eight. That’s where we are. We have a schedule made out for the next few years. We have Notre Dame rotating in and out of there. We’ve got Kansas, Northwestern, we have some Big 12, Big Ten, SEC schools on our schedule now. From a coaching standpoint, we’re real happy with eight games. I think there’s a lot of discussions we’re going to have with the ADs that could be interesting.”
One of the biggest criticisms of the current format is that each ACC school faces its crossover opponents only twice during the 12-year rotation — once at home and once on the road, but not consecutively. A nine-game format would increase the ACC’s league schedule from 56 to 63 games.
Not all of the coaches are in favor of eight games, as Miami’s Al Golden and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer both said they are in favor of nine, and Virginia coach Mike London said he hasn’t made up his mind on the issue.
“I’d rather play a game that you need to win as opposed to playing a game that you should win,” Beamer said. “Just from a coaching standpoint, I think that I’d love more of those challenges rather than the alumni getting all upset when they think you should’ve won a game. … I think I’d go for nine games.”