ACC fans knew this was coming. They knew in October that the conference had scrapped plans to adopt a nine-game league football schedule, and they knew the cost of that reversal.
Yet when the ACC released the 2014-24 interdivision rotation Tuesday afternoon, many were outraged that attractive matchups such as Virginia Tech-Florida State will be staged only twice every 12 years.
Talk about short-term memory lapse.
This is the price conference officials determined was worth paying when they elected in October to remain at eight league games. This is the price for greater flexibility in non-conference scheduling. This is the price of accepting Notre Dame as a partial member and agreeing to have the Fighting Irish play five football games annually against ACC teams.
And finally, this is the price of expansion.
Growing from nine to 12 members a decade ago with the addition of Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston Colleges, and swelling to 14 this year with the arrival of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, broadened the ACC’s brand and increased its television value. But expansion of conferences throughout college athletics doomed round-robin schedules in which you played everyone from your league every year.
Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver and his Virginia colleague, Craig Littlepage, would prefer nine conference games. As would I.
With nine, programs from opposite divisions that are not designated permanent crossover rivals would meet twice every six years instead of twice every 12.
Florida State’s Thursday night comeback at Virginia Tech last season? The Seminoles don’t return to Blacksburg until 2023.
None of this is breaking news. The infrequency of many conference rivalries has been clear for eight months.
But seeing the actual rotation Tuesday was a stark reminder and certainly stirred up the Twitterverse.
Eliminating permanent crossovers and instead rotating all interdivision matchups would increase the frequency of games such as Clemson-Virginia and Florida State-Virginia Tech. Fine by me. Annual crossovers such as Virginia Tech-Boston College and Virginia-Louisville hardly seem obligatory.
Virginia Tech faithful appear bored with the Hokies’ yearly game versus Boston College, dismissing how competitive the programs were not long ago – they met in the 2007 and ’08 ACC championship games. With Louisville replacing Big Ten-bound Maryland as Virginia’s annual crossover, Cavaliers fans are understandably ambivalent – those programs haven’t met since 1989.
But would ESPN and the league be willing to abandon traditional yearly matchups such as Florida State-Miami, Clemson-Georgia Tech and North Carolina State-North Carolina? In the old Big 12, Oklahoma and Nebraska didn’t clash every year, ending a storied rivalry, so anything’s possible, but I don’t see the ACC sacrificing those games.
That leaves realigning divisions to remedy some fan angst. But good luck crafting any split that approaches equitable. The Coastal-Atlantic groupings have been competitive, and adding Syracuse to the Atlantic and Pittsburgh to the Coastal this year, and replacing Maryland with Louisville in the Atlantic next year shouldn’t drastically alter the balance of the power.
Besides, every time I ask an ACC official, commissioner John Swofford included, about retooling the divisions, no one professes the stomach for the exercise.
An easy scapegoat here is Notre Dame. Prior to the Irish agreeing to play five games a season against the ACC, the conference was set to play a nine-game football schedule. But a majority of league schools, most adamantly Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, believe that the occasional Notre Dame clash, plus nine conference games, plus the annual in-state rival from the Southeastern Conference (South Carolina for Clemson, Florida for Florida State and Georgia for Georgia Tech) would leave too little scheduling flexibility.
So should the ACC have passed on Notre Dame? No. The financial benefits of five annual football games against the Irish, the lure of Notre Dame to potential bowl partners and the Irish’s presence in other sports are considerable.
The X factor here is college football’s four-team playoff, set to start in 2014. A committee will select the participants, and strength of schedule will be a critical component.
Might that push the ACC and SEC – the Pacific 12, Big 12 and Big Ten will play nine conference games – to add a league contest?
We can only hope. Conference “rivals” should play more than twice every 12 years.
With an eight-game conference schedule, ACC teams will play each of their six division rivals, plus a permanent crossover, every year. The remaining game is rotated.
The permanent crossovers are Virginia-Louisville, Virginia Tech-Boston College, Duke-Wake Forest, North Carolina-N.C. State, Miami-Florida State, Georgia Tech-Clemson and Syracuse-Pitt.
The rotating crossovers for Virginia and Virginia Tech from 2013-24 are as follows:
Virginia Tech Virginia
2014 at Wake at FSU
2015 N.C. State Syracuse
2016 at Syracuse at Wake
2017 Clemson Boston College
2018 at Florida St. at N.C. State
2019 Wake Forest Florida State
2020 at Louisville at Clemson
2021 Syracuse Wake Forest
2022 at N.C. State at Syracuse
2023 Florida State N.C. State
2024 at Clemson at Boston College
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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