It's the offseason, so football scheduling has been on the mind quite a bit lately. We had the SEC's decision to stay at eight conference games over the weekend, and then our own conversation about Vanderbilt, which was then shot down. And now, attention turns to the ACC's annual spring meetings and the impending (seemingly annual) discussion about whether or not the league should move to a nine-game conference schedule.
At this point, you already know the issues. The ACC currently plays an eight-game conference schedule, and with 14 teams and two divisions, that means six games in-division, one permanent crossover (in our case, Pitt -- woof) and a flexible crossover that rotates around the rest of the Coastal teams. That creates the comical setup of facing teams like Georgia Tech, Duke, Miami etc. just twice every 12 years (and only once at home).
It's been thought that there were two main barriers to a nine-game slate to fix these issues: A) Notre Dame's five-ACC-teams-per-year rotation that reversed league athletic directors' original decision on this matter back in 2012. And B) The four SEC/ACC rivalry games. Most importantly, the latter, when combined with a Notre Dame matchup, would lock those teams into 11 games, with very minimal flexibility left for further scheduling. Those four schools -- Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville -- seemed the most likely to prevent the jump up to nine games. Until this tidbit came out...
Originally reported by ESPN on Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution expands on that concept at the link above. Basically, they see things the way our own DOCTOR Gross sees things: Why are we only playing other schools in the conference twice every 12 years? And for Tech, who's struggled with recruiting of late, getting to other regions within the conference may have become even more imperative.
According to the ESPN piece, half of the ACC athletic directors polled -- including Tech and we'd assume Syracuse, too -- were in favor of a move to nine games. Two of the SEC rivalry contingent, Florida State and Clemson, are firmly against, along with Duke, who has seen a football resurgence with an easier non-conference schedule in recent years. The swing votes, as ESPN points to, appear to be Boston College, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and perhaps Louisville (another surprise). When the ADs vote at the Amelia Island, Fla. spring meetings in two weeks, they'll only need a simple majority (eight of our 14 voting football members).
So the likely final vote breakdown, as I see it:
Pro-9: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Wake Forest
Anti-9: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
That's a big 9-5 win in favor of a nine-game schedule, though it does ignore the coaches' preference to stay at eight games, along with the pending legislation filed by the ACC and Big 12 to remove divisions and allow conferences the autonomy to determine their own champions. A lack of divisions would not only allow the Big 12 to hold a lucrative title game with just 10 teams, but also remove much of the ACC's need to have a nine-game slate in a geographically awkward alignment. For the Pac-12 and Big Ten, it's unlikely much would change. Though for the SEC, there's a possibility they'd also go to a no-division format to ensure certain rivalries stay in place.
The other big issue once the Amelia Island vote and NCAA ruling are resolved is the format of football scheduling. If it remains status quo, obviously nothing changes. If it's same divisions but with a nine-game schedule, then they determine whether the permanent crossovers make much sense or not (or whether they do for some teams, but not others). And if the NCAA gives leagues autonomy (could certainly happen after the ruling to allow for Power Five governance control) to determine their own champion, then not only do you have to vote on eight v. nine games, but whether you have divisions or not, and then how those schedules are devised. There are a bevy of options there, and all have some merits toward constructing a better system than the one in place.
So what do you think? Does a nine-game schedule seem imminent now? Or just part of the steps toward self-determination for the ACC? Are you in favor? Share your own thoughts below.