So many flirtations, so much disappointment. Indeed, after more than 10 years of the ACC considering an overhaul of its football schedule, a we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it approach is advisable.
But here at the conference’s annual spring meetings there is — dare I say it? — momentum to craft a model in which teams play one another more often. Quite the novel concept, eh?
The most-likely format: Each of the league’s 14 teams would be assigned three annual opponents. The remaining 10 conference rivals would rotate onto the schedule every other season, five on, five off.
Translation: You play each of the other 13 ACC teams at least once every two years, in your stadium at least once every four seasons.
“The 3-5-5 [model] at its core was student-athlete driven to be able to play around the league before you graduate,” Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich said Tuesday after the ADs huddled with the league’s football coaches and ACC commissioner Jim Phillips. “… We’re closer to the end than the beginning on that.
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“We need to talk a little bit to our TV partners [ESPN] to see what they think, kind of run it through the car wash one more time.”
Resolution is not expected before these meetings adjourn Thursday morning, but Radakovich said plenty of time remains to approve the changes prior to the 2023 season. Meanwhile, the NCAA Division I Council is poised to erase an archaic 1987 rule requiring conferences of at least 12 teams to have divisions in order to stage a football championship game.
The ACC’s new format would be exponentially better than the present schedule. With the seven-team Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, you play each of your six division rivals, plus one crossover opponent, every season. Your eighth conference game then rotates among the six other teams in the opposite division.
Translation: ACC programs face almost half of their league rivals, six of 13, only once every six seasons, once every dozen years at home.
That’s why Florida State hasn’t played at Virginia Tech since 2012. That’s why Virginia’s trip to Syracuse this season will be the Cavaliers’ first since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. And that’s why North Carolina and Wake Forest played a non-conference home-and-home in 2019 and ’21.
“I don’t have a strong lean one way or the other,” NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan said, “but what I do like is playing teams more often. We’re in Raleigh and [Duke] is, being generous, say 30 miles away, and we play each other twice in 12 years.”
In previous years, ACC officials studied expanding the conference schedule to nine games, but contracted non-league encounters with Notre Dame — the Fighting Irish play, on average, five ACC opponents a season — doomed that plan.
“We’re really doing our due diligence and doing all the analytics on it to make sure that we make the right decision,” Florida State athletic director Michael Alford said of the 3-5-5 format. “At the end of the day, it’s about moving the conference forward. You have to put your conference hat on and take your institution hat off.”
Alford and his colleagues have gone as far to sketch out potential allocations of each school’s three annual opponents. Here’s one possibility among the myriad options.
VIRGINIA: Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest
VIRGINIA TECH: Virginia, Miami and Georgia Tech
GEORGIA TECH: Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke
NORTH CAROLINA: NC State, Duke and Virginia
WAKE FOREST: Duke, NC State and Virginia
DUKE: North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech
NC STATE: North Carolina, Wake Forest and Clemson
FLORIDA STATE: Clemson, Miami and Louisville
MIAMI: Florida State, Boston College and Virginia Tech
CLEMSON: Florida State, NC State and Georgia Tech
BOSTON COLLEGE: Pitt, Syracuse and Miami
PITT: Boston College, Syracuse and Louisville
SYRACUSE: Pitt, Boston College and Louisville
LOUISVILLE: Pitt, Syracuse and Florida State
“I would say we’re much nearer the end than the beginning on that as well,” Radakovich said of determining annual opponents. “I don’t think any of it is written in ink.”