This week has the ACC spring meetings. Among the issues to be decided would be the conference schedule for football. Specifically, whether the ACC would go to 9 games.
Brief recap. After the joining of Syracuse and Pitt, the ACC decided to go to a 9 game schedule. This despite the complaints from GT, Clemson and especially FSU. All three have permanent rivalry games with their in-state SEC rival. To go to a 9 game schedule would make it harder for them to annually schedule 7 home games. This decision got rescinded after the Notre Dame maneuver. With Notre Dame rotating onto every ACC team’s schedule at least once every 3 years as a non-con — which is more frequently played than an actual conference opponent from the other division, excluding the protected rivalry game — it was seen as being too unfair to teams that had an out-of-conference rival.
[Just a brief aside, but the fit pitched by both Clemson and FSU over the issue of the 9th game at the time was cited by many as an issue that was driving those teams to look closer at the Big XII. Yet, the Big XII had already gone to a 9-game schedule, which seemed to be conveniently ignored.]
Now, with the coming playoff and emphasis on strength of schedule. The hope for an ACC Network (i.e., more inventory). And that the Big 10 was moving to a 9 game schedule. Well, that meant 3 of the major 5 conferences were already at that point. There was momentum to revisit and possibly return to that idea.
Full disclosure, I fully support a 9-game schedule. I think it provides better games. It is better for the conference to actually play everyone in the conference within a 3-year period rather than 6 years. And frankly, most programs have sucked at handling 4 non-con games. Opting for a low 1-A team and adding a 1-AA as well all for the puffery on the wins and to have seven home games.
The vote was going to be close. ADs and administrators for the schools in the ACC seemed evenly split. But Commissioner Ninja John Swofford quickly realized the votes weren’t going to be there.
No sooner had league officials convened at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla., for their annual spring meetings — had anyone found time to scout the top-shelf tequilas at the oceanside bar? — did the ACC tweet the news that commissioner John Swofford is recommending that the status quo prevail. Moments later, Swofford emerged from behind closed doors and discussed the matter with several reporters in a hallway.
Not exactly SOP for XXL news — the ACC has debated for years whether to play eight or nine conference games. And certainly no way to lend any drama to proceedings that extend until Thursday.
Granted, a closing business session must vote on Swofford’s recommendation, but that’s a mere rubber-stamping. Swofford knows the temperature of the room and unveiled the decision only after conferring with the league’s 14 athletic directors, who were far from united — the vote was 8-6, according to a source, with Virginia’s Craig Littlepage preferring nine games, Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock eight.
Kind of interesting there, since VT Coach Frank Beamer had previously endorsed nine games.
There is no change to the schedule format either. With the 6-1-1 schedule layout remaining: six divisional conference game, one “protected rivalry” game with a cross-divisional team, and one rotating conference game from the other division.
There is the sop of “requiring” teams to schedule at least one major conference opponent each year. A particularly low bar to clear.
Pitt AD Steve Pederson unfortunately has supported the status quo.