OTR: 18 Game Conference Schedule?

If you haven’t been under a rock this week then you know that the biggest issue discussed by the Atlantic Coast Conference – quickly becoming the “can’t leave well enough alone crowd” – at the annual meeting was the issue of how many games should comprise the annual basketball schedule.

Up for debate – should the conference join the Big East and Big Ten will join the Pac-10 and play an 18-game conference schedule this next basketball season (as opposed to the league’s traditional 16 game schedule).

The ‘reasoning’ behind the emergence of this issue is simple — more conference games allows the league to sell more games in its television package and therefore make more money. More specifically, Caulton Tudor says, “It’s not that an 18-game schedule would necessarily increase the size of the TV check after the league’s current contract expires after the 2010-2011 season. But going to 18 should be enough to keep the ACC from having to accept a less lucrative contract during the next round of negotiations.”

The coaches dislike the idea very much. But who are they? They must be the only people on earth who don’t know that a bunch of presidents and athletics administrators are the real stars of the conference. Who ever heard of Everett Case, Dean Smith, Coach K, Norm Sloan, Jim Valvano, Lefty Driesell, Bobby Cremmins, Gary Williams or Roy Williams anyway?

For now, the decision has been made to stick with 16 games. But, Caulton Tudor is dead-on when he says that eventually the ACC will play an 18-game schedule.

What worries the coaches as much as the number 18 is what would come next. An 18-game schedule would work for a while, but then what? A 20-game schedule, that’s what. Then at some point in the future, 22.

For ACC head coaches, it’s a double-edged sword. Television income is a big reason why most of them earn more than a million dollars a year. But the need for that TV money eventually will create two more difficult games to win each season.

And winning conference games in the ACC isn’t easy. The perfect example last season was Duke, which lost 11 games overall but only twice to non-conference opponents.

Lose enough ACC conference games and anyone could become the next Matt Doherty or Pete Gillen.

Other prominent leagues are moving in the same direction. The Big Ten and Big East soon will go to 18 games, and as much as the Pacific-10 coaches have clamored for a reduction from 18 to 16, league ADs haven’t jumped aboard.

Additionally, this link will take you to Tudor’s podcast.

Being an ACC purist, I very much dislike the idea of expanding the league’s schedule. Much like the expansion issue a few years ago – I do not believe that the small marginal financial benefit of the move is worth the cost of dilution of competitiveness and long-standing traditions that breed such a special environment in the ACC.

However, being a realist dictates that I understand this move (unfortunately) is imminent. With that said, IF the move must be made…then it needs to be made as perfectly as possible. IMHO, this means that the conference MUST alter its basketball format to include two divisions that mirror the football divisions.

Coach K has been the most high-profile coach to take this suggestion public with an endorsement. The Charlotte Observer quickly featured K’s comments in this article.

Krzyzewski would like to see the ACC split into two six-team divisions for basketball, as it did in football. Each team would play divisional opponents twice and non-divisional opponents once each season for a total of 16 ACC games.

That format would make teams’ schedules — at least among divisional rivals — more equitable, he said. “It would give everyone a clearer picture for assessing a team’s record when it comes to post-season opportunities,” Krzyzewski said.

Krzyzewski recently consulted with South Carolina’s Dave Odom — a former Wake Forest coach — about the divisional format. Odom likes it because it provides equity among divisional opponents and predictability in scheduling and because it reduces the stigma for teams that finish at the bottom.

The N&O’s ACCNow blogged some good commentary on the topic.

After highlighting the problems with the current imbalanced schedule they make the mistake of comparing a proposed 18-game schedule to the unreachable ideal of a round-robin schedule in the following comments:

Eighteen would be an improvement, both competitively and fiscally, but it’s still not a round-robin. The divisions wouldn’t bring any sense of equality, actually they’d only cause a further disparity since under the current schedule, only one team — Georgia Tech — played UNC and Duke twice. In a division format, the four teams in the same division would be at a disadvantage compared to the ones that play Carolina and Duke twice.

The round robin is forever lost; so, let it go. The two alternatives that ultimately remain are: (1) continuing with severe/significant imbalance or (2) shifting to a divisional format.

A divisional format may not bring ‘equality’ as the N&O puts it; but the format would bring significant and much needed standardization and consistency to annual schedules.

For everyone that wants to complain about having both Duke and Carolina in their division, (sarcasm) I’m sure the football coaches at the same schools would love to trade divisions and give up their annual games with Duke and Carolina. Folks, it generally comes out in the wash.

We ask that you go “On the Record” with us on this topic and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Calling VaWolf!
VaWolf, I don’ t know if you read Tudor’s entire article…but he shared a quote in it that I thought was screaming your name:

Duke and Carolina, which face the most difficult conference schedules

Personally, I don’t know if this conclusion is accurate or not. But, I’ve got a feeling that you have already done the research that corroborates/dis-proves this statement. The next couple of days would be a great time to re-address your past work on the topic.


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24 Responses to OTR: 18 Game Conference Schedule?

  1. McPete 05/17/2007 at 12:04 PM #

    I heard a lot of complaining last season about our ACC schedule being tougher than other teams’ acc schedules. while i know this certainly would not solve that problem, it gets two games closer to a two round robin.

    I don’t think coaches like the idea b/c it’s two more tough games on the schedule. there are only a couple of schools in the acc that plays a top notch non conference schedule and i bet these schools could continue to do that. the rest play a couple of top teams and a bunch of nobodys. if these schools had two more tough conference games on the schedule, would they keep the two tough non conference games and potentially lose more games, or drop the high profile non-conference games and lose national visibility?

  2. ruffles31 05/17/2007 at 12:09 PM #

    I agree that the two divisional system is the best alternative and I have never understood why the ACC didn’t implement this method when BC joined the league 2 years ago.

    If the league goes to 18 games, then we can set the schedule up like football.

    You play each team in your division home and home.
    You play each team in the other division once.
    With two extra games, each team has one permanent partner from the other conference. It can be the same partner as in football. You will play this team twice.
    With the last conference game, it can rotate between the other 5 teams every year.

    For example, State would have UNC as their permanent partner. Let’s say that the first year Miami is our other team in the Coastal Division we play twice. Therefore our schedule would include:

    FSU – 2
    Wake – 2
    Clemson – 2
    Maryland – 2
    BC – 2
    UNC – 2
    Miami – 2
    Duke – 1
    GT – 1
    Virginia – 1
    Virginia Tech – 1

    The permanent partners would be:


    I would not want to go to divisonal setup with only 16 games in the conference UNLESS there was a guarantee that State and UNC would play one non-conference game a year. I would want Fowler to make sure that we still play them twice a year, even if one game would not count in the ACC standings.

  3. BJD95 05/17/2007 at 12:10 PM #

    I’m torn. If the trend of watering down OOC schedules (to inflate the record and maximize revenue by scheduling more home games) continues much further, then I’m all for it. As long as the OTHER big conferences are doing it, there should be minimal disproportionate impact on ACC hoops. At least that makes it harder to schedule your way to 20 wins (I’m looking at you, Clemson).

    Wake and State could get really screwed, balance-wise, from an 18-game slate with divisions. They would almost certainly get “rivalry” pairings with BOTH Duke and UNC.

    Basically, I would like one of two things to happen:

    1) Rigorously enforce guidelines on looking at OOC SOS and conference strength. Mainly, this means devaluing “overall wins.” Teams that play a competitive non-conference schedule should get a bump even with a so-so conference record, if the conference is tough enough. Undefeated OOC against Sisters of the Poor at home? No mercy. Do that, and I have no problem with staying at 16.

    2) Expand conference slates for all conferences, starting at 18 and moving up from there. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Again, conference strength MUST be weighted heavily.

  4. packbackr04 05/17/2007 at 12:43 PM #

    DOES anyone think that ESPN, wants to give up a UNC- Duke game twice a year to do it once a year??? which, and correct me if im wrong, could happen if they are put into seperate divisions? dont the networks want as many UNC-DUke games as possible?

    SFN: You are corrected for being wrong. First of all, Duke and Carolina are already in the same division. Why do you think that they would therefore be put in separate divisions? Secondly, some games with schools that are in opposite divisions can be ‘protected’ by setting up permanent partners.

  5. packbackr04 05/17/2007 at 12:44 PM #

    i like that ruffles, but again i just see UNC and/or Duke whining that they are not perm partners, because evryone on tv pumps them up to be the best rivalry in sports.

    as if K and roy needed anything else to whine about

  6. haze 05/17/2007 at 12:46 PM #

    Ruffles has the right system, IMO, and the one that is most consistent with the current football divisions.
    – adopt the 6-team divisions from football.
    – play all in-division teams twice (10 games).
    – play all other-division teams at least once (6 games).
    – play one other-division permanent rivalry team twice (1 game).
    – permanent rivalry teams are the same in football and basketball.
    – have one rotating 2nd game out of the other division (1 game).
    Sums to 18 games and is more fair than the football system thanks to the fact that you do get every team every year and 7 of 11 twice. Also, in bball, the rotating rival changes every year b/c home/away is balanced within each season.

    The system is not perfect b/c SOS won’t be perfectly balanced due to divisional and permanent ties. However, there are trade offs in that the most historically dominant programs (e.g. Duke, UNC, State, Maryland all have NC’s) that make for tough schedules will also make for the most national exposure. The reward for playing tough is exposure. The reward for playing weak SOS is a better record (see UVA ’07) and easier access to the NCAAT.

  7. haze 05/17/2007 at 12:50 PM #

    By adopting the football divisions, Duke and UNC would play each other twice every year b/c they’d be in the same division. Ditto for State-Wake and State-Maryland. The gripe would remain that Duke-State and Wake-UNC would be once a year events 80% of the time.

  8. PapaJohn 05/17/2007 at 12:56 PM #

    I’d like to see us drop a couple of the embarrassing November/December games and keep the 2-3 quality opponents that we take on now. Plus make sure we’re in a quality tournament every fall. I understand why they schedule it that way, I just don’t like it. And judging by all the empty seats during the pre-season, few others like it either.

    I disagree with BJD95 in that I WANT to play Duke and Carolina twice a year. I firmly believe that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. You want to know how your program is doing? Put them under the harsh lights on Coach K court and at Dean’s dome.

    What’s our best accomplishment last season? Not the NIT. Not continuing our 20+ per year streak. It’s beating Carolina and Duke!

    A quick trip down memory lane … To me, and the group I hung with at the time, the only minor blemish on the 1983 NCAAT run was that UNC didn’t step up and beat UGA so that we could have beaten them again on the way to winning it all. It was sweet as it was, but that would have made it even better. My point, you’ve got to play the heavyweights. Beating them is really what it’s all about.

    Year in and year out the ACC is AT LEAST as tough top to bottom as any other conference. Adding two more ACC games should reflect positively on our SOS over the long haul.

    I agree w/ Tudor, if there is financial benefit then it is inevitable. I say bring it on, but make sure we get a regular season with two shots at each of the other members of the big four.

  9. burnbarn 05/17/2007 at 1:17 PM #

    I read that part about them having the most difficult schedules too and thought he was inmplying OOC games and not league schedules. Of course those two always play the toughest schedule (whatever….more popular misconception).

    I think divisional play will have to be the way to go and i think it would be very bad if the divisions were any different than the football divisions.

  10. BJD95 05/17/2007 at 1:38 PM #

    I’d rather play Duke and UNC twice a year, too. But I don’t want multiple occurrences of getting the 5th or 6th seed in the ACCT (instead of the 3rd or 4th) b/c our schedule is consistently harder than our competitors’. Cuts both ways.

  11. Cosmo96 05/17/2007 at 2:12 PM #

    I’m fine if the ACC goes with divisional play in basketball, like the SEC has, during the regular season, but leave the tournament alone!! I don’t like that goofy format the SEC uses for their tournament. I think tournament seedings could still be done on an “overall” basis, even though the first-place finisher in one division could potentially be shafted with a four or five seed if the other division is that much stronger. Personally, I’m fine with that.

  12. noah 05/17/2007 at 2:38 PM #

    Teams normally play 27 reg. season games?

    Expand to 28 games in the season and drop one cupcake game. What’s wrong with that?

  13. StateFans 05/17/2007 at 2:41 PM #

    ^ I thought that they number was 28 games, not 27.

    Additionally, ruffles’ suggestion is the only way that I thought the divisional format would work.

    In fact…if State WANTED to play Duke twice a year (which we haven’t been doing lately, anyway) then we could always schedule them with an out of conference game.

  14. packbackr04 05/17/2007 at 3:21 PM #

    StateFans… yeah but does Duke want to play us 2wice a yr

  15. VaWolf82 05/17/2007 at 3:36 PM #

    Hey Jeff, I’m still alive.

    I didn’t read Tudor’s piece yet, but he is probably being a little simplistic with determining who has the strongest ACC schedule. Some team that had four games against thet top two teams would probably have a tougher schedule than either of the top two teams.

    Here’s the last piece that I did on ACC SOS. It looks at both ’06 and ’07.


  16. MadWolf92 05/17/2007 at 4:47 PM #

    I like the tradition of the ACC, but part of that tradition is innovation. You could argue that moving to an 18-game slate is a sheep move rather than an innovation, but I do like that the ACC doesn’t stand pat all the time.

  17. bTHEredterror 05/17/2007 at 8:05 PM #

    Round Robin died with expansion, and while I miss the equity, I am a football fan first and I love the new football conference. I also like the idea of an 18 game schedule in the event the ACC keeps the rival partner clause.

    Meaning if we are put in the division opposite Dooook and UNX (which you know we will be), we still get ’em twice a year. By the N&O opinion we may be crazy to want to play these two unbeatable teams (sic), but I for one would rage against any other outcome. I’m still pissed that we had to give up the home and home with Duke, and I view it as an insult they picked Maryland over us. I have to thank them for it though, because it wasn’t until that moment that they became equal to the ‘Holes in contemptability for me.
    This way we would have 10 divisional games, 4 against the other division, and 4 against our rivals, as it should be. We could trade Duke for Wake as we’d play them twice anyway, and Duke could sub us for UNX who they play twice anyway. That way Duke wouldn’t have to sacrifice their rivalry with Maryland, heh heh.

  18. Astral Rain2 05/17/2007 at 8:28 PM #

    Here’s how I’d do it

    Twin-division setup, same as football
    Also North-central-south setup
    North: BC/MD/VA/VT
    Central: UNC/Wake/State/Duke
    South: FSU/Miami/GT/Clem

    You play your own division and your own section twice- play everyone else once. Would cut down on the travel slightly, and help out the weak sisters of the conference, who mostly happen to be in the south (GT isn’t a weak sister, the other three schools are)

    18 Games for everyone.

    Personally I’d like to see a 22 game schedule.

  19. Cardiac95 05/18/2007 at 8:06 AM #

    As far as the 18 game schedule goes…. Why not table the arguement for a few years to see the impact it has on the other conference’s NCAA bids. If 18 games produces consistently lower NCAA bids than historical for those conferences, then all the money “gained” by TV contracts is somewhat (maybe completely) negated by loss of NCAA participation.

    For now… Let’s make the Divisional Format happen!

  20. RickJ 05/18/2007 at 8:16 AM #

    Slightly off topic but I was noticing that in baseball, ACC teams play a 3 game series against 10 of the 11 conference foes and they are split into the same Atlantic & Coastal divisions. Why wouldn’t they go ahead and play all 11 teams head-to-head? Naturally, we don’t play Duke, a bad team and our closest neighbor.

  21. TNCSU 05/18/2007 at 9:52 AM #

    We’re never going to get more than 7-8 bids no matter how many games. Simply put, if you are not .500 in the league, they will not select you (maybe an occasional exception). Even if our number 12 team could beat the Big 12 number 5 (which is probably the case), we’ll only get 7-8.

    Astral, you lost me a bit. Are you proposing the two divisions or three? I like the three, but it would be tough logistically. However, I’m in favor of playing Wake, Dook, and UNC twice per year every year — I’d prefer to play them again in the tournament — in that order — in winning the ACCT.

  22. VaWolf82 05/18/2007 at 12:42 PM #

    We’re never going to get more than 7-8 bids no matter how many games.

    I agree with this. It’s unlikely that the loser of the 8/9 ACCT game on Thursday will ever get an at-large bid.

  23. Astral Rain2 05/18/2007 at 1:50 PM #

    Basically, each set of team would play their division twice, and their two closest rivals geographically twice, and everyone else once

    Would be three sets of 4
    BC/MD/VA/VT, UNC/Duke/NCSU/Wake, GT/Clem/FSU/Miami

    I think the ACC should just go to a 22 game schedule and see what happens.
    Would be a really tough league then.

  24. redfred2 05/18/2007 at 3:50 PM #

    No matter strength of conference, 7 or 8 teams should be much more than enough for anyone. As a matter of fact, I think so many teams from one conference receiving bids, is a joke anyway. But I’m old, I watched a Maryland team sit down right after the ACC tournament when there was no doubt that they were a top 5, if not top 2 or 3 team, in the land.

    For some reason, Lefty didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell for a string of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances back then. I wonder why?

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