After hearing the early murmurs around this Friday’s ACC football schedule discussion, we weren’t too pleased. The centerpiece of the discussion, pushed by now-former Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski, was a new “8 plus 2” model seemingly favored by the four league schools with SEC rivals (Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville).
Basically, it calls for an additional power conference game on top of the current mandate (effective next year). That’s easy enough for those four schools. Not so much for others. There’s also the matter of there not being enough power conference teams available outside the ACC to actually fill those spots.
While that option’s probably still on the table, despite Bobinski’s departure, interest has now shifted back over to the nine-game schedule. The ACC scrapped the idea after the Notre Dame arrangement came to pass. But now that ESPN wants more inventory, it may return, despite complaints from the SEC rivals crowd.
Yesterday, the Daily Press’s David Teel brought up a straw poll coming out of the last formal vote on the matter in 2014. Eight games remained the standard, by a vote of eight to six. Investigations afterward revealed this likely breakdown:
“Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Duke, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Miami and Pitt favored eight.
Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Boston College wanted nine.”
It’s easy to see why most of the schools fell into their respective camps. The SEC rivals group doesn’t want to get killed on schedule flexibility in the years where they face Notre Dame as well as their traditional rival. Pitt has non-conference rivals in West Virginia and Penn State, and Virginia Tech can claim the former as a rival as well. Miami entertains an annual series with Florida here and there. Duke likes to schedule one of its academic peers like Stanford, Vanderbilt or Northwestern.
Around the time of the vote, then-Syracuse Orange athletic director DOCTOR Daryl Gross was the ringleader of #TeamNineGames. In part, it was because he “wanted to play in markets like Atlanta (Georgia Tech) and Miami more.” There’s another part of this that says (to me) that it was more about the school’s inability to get out ahead of future schedules.
Even with Gross gone, it would stand to reason SU’s still in the nine games camp for the latter reason. Ideally, you’d want eight games so you have the flexibility to use the other four to your advantage (like, to schedule yourself enough wins to make a bowl). But since Syracuse can’t/won’t do that for over a decade now, might as well get another game against in-conference opponents.
There’s been little indication about the voting from those with an actual stake in these things, though coaches (who don’t vote Friday) have made their opinions heard here and there. Miami and Duke seem like the real swing votes, while Virginia Tech (already well-scheduled through 2024) and Duke (aforementioned reason, plus well-scheduled) seem likely to stay put. The schools that have a lot of games wrapped up, like Wake Forest, may also end up switching to the eight games side of the conversation because they want to avoid costly payouts to opponents they’ll be cancelling on.
Ultimately, though, it’ll come down to the amount of money the conference will leave on the table, as a group, if they vote to stay at eight games (with the plus-one P5 caveat). We have no idea what sort of money ESPN is talking about in these negotiations with the league around the ACC Network. But it’s also not a stretch to believe that inventory plays a role in the overall value. As Teel aptly points out, the concessions for a network were probably two-fold. We know basketball’s already been agreed to. Now we wait to hear about football on Friday.