Item: The annual ACC spring meetings take place next week in Florida, and with the College Football Playoff era getting underway this fall, what’s the right scheduling formula to ensure the league’s champion has a path to the national championship game?
The SEC came out boldly proclaiming last week that it’s staying at eight regular season conference football games, while mandating that each league member annually schedule a game against a team from one of the other five “Power Conferences” (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, and Pac 12) beginning in 2016, even though most of the teams have either been doing so annually in rivalry games, or had home-and-home series already scheduled, including LSU making a rare visit outside SEC country (only five games since 2000 not played in its conference footprint) to face the Orange in the Dome in 2015, and Baton Rouge in 2017.
By sticking at eight league games, the SEC’s action brought a quick rebuke from the Pac 12 office and coaches as the “Power Five” jockey for the four semi-final slots to be played in two games on New Year’s Day, with the two winners then moving on to the first CFP championship game to be played next Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium outside Dallas.
The Pac 12 protested over the uneven scheduling balance because its teams and those of the Big Ten (2016) and Big 12 will play nine league games out of 12 moving forward, with the ACC still up in the air, and as a result many Pac 12 teams downgraded their out-of-conference schedules this season and beyond to compensate for beating up on each other in a larger and stronger league.
SU athletic director Daryl Gross has been at the forefront of discussions among his ACC peers in deciding the eight versus nine game issue. It’s all about strength of schedule for the new playoffs making nine league games attractive, along with an easier path to schedule only three non-league openings most seasons, while Gross has made valid points that if the conference stays at eight, especially significant in years in which an ACC team plays Notre Dame through its five games-per-season rotation, to consider abandoning the Atlantic/Coastal division formats and allow a quicker sequence of each team meeting one another home and away.
That dismantling would aim to place the ACC’s two best teams, regardless of a division format, into the league title game, and was presented in March to the NCAA.
It would also go a long way to appease Gross and ensure the Orange can play more often in southeastern recruiting hotspots, so the program’s players, many of whom arrive in central New York from those very geographic locations, can play in close proximity to family and friends several times over the course of a ‘Cuse career.
The other obvious element in adding a ninth game or not will come down to TV partner ESPN.
If plans are indeed to go ahead and formally build out a defined 24/7/365 ACC Network following in the footsteps of the Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC and Texas Longhorn networks to be distributed (or attempted, at least, to be distributed) to cable/satellite/digital providers, then the need for more football inventory, no matter if an ACC team has nine league games, plus Notre Dame and a rivalry game in a particular season, will likely take precedence.