Why the ACC Should Create a Scheduling Partnership With the Pac-12

Would a Pac-12/ACC Scheduling Agreement Work for Both Parties?

The college football world was abuzz months ago when the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced their non-conference scheduling agreement, but not surprised at all when it all fell apart before a single game was played in the series. Despite its logistical failures – hard to match schedules when one league plays nine conference games and the other has eight – Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver was also happy to float the idea along for an ACC-SEC partnership as well. There, the same hurdles would apply. Neither league would truly get exposure to any new ground. And the ACC would likely lose the majority of these matchups, effectively removing their champion from any National Championship conversation (if they were ever in it to begin with).

But what if, instead of a doomed partnership with regional rival/brethren, the SEC, the ACC thought a little outside the box. What about a partnership with its west coast counterpart, the Pac-12?

Now, first of all, hear me out. The two leagues actually have plenty in common. Both maintain high academic standards. Both hold a presence in the largest media markets on their respective coasts. Both struggle to make headway with local professional sports teams (though not the case in every market). And both battle a national perception problem, though the Pac-12 has done more to deal with this of late. After the 2011 bicoastal media tour (basically introducing the east coast to the conference’s schools and premiere personalities) and yesterday’s launch of the Pac-12 Network, the league is looking at aggressive growth to reach the east coast. The ACC, on the other hand, has zero cachet among west coast viewers.

Obviously, with both leagues playing a nine-game league schedule, there isn’t a ton of wiggle room to incorporate cross-continental non-conference games. The easy solution: why bother making them readjust? The plan:

Two Games Each Year

Limiting it to four games each year, you end up “messing with” the schedules of just four teams. Each team in the Pac-12 would only have to participate once every three years. Each ACC team would play in the event once every four years. While many schedules are negotiated out years in advance, if these talks started taking place now, it shouldn’t be too hard for most schools to reserve one weekend starting in the 2014-2017 time period. Doesn’t sound that appealing? What if I told you…

The Games Would Be Staged in Major Media Markets

There’s the draw. This year, Syracuse and USC play in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, likely capturing the attention of the New York market for the day. Since SC always plays in L.A., attention was on them for the front-end of the series last year, held at the Coliseum.

For the agreement going forward, you can hold one game on the east coast and one on the west each season. So, for the west coast, hold games in Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. On the east coast, games would be held in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta and Miami.

Now, if you’re Georgia Tech, suddenly a trip to widely-publicized trip to San Francisco to face Stanford sounds a whole lot better, especially when you know that Oregon is coming to Atlanta on the other end, for another big media payday. To top it all off, the games could be held at NFL stadiums, to maximize the amount of tickets available and marketing opportunities for teams. Yes, we love college football in the traditional sense. But at the end of the day, I think we’ve all accepted it’s a business, so let’s just treat it as such here.

Academic Cooperation

The big draw for those decrying this as purely a business move, the two conferences could also use it as a launching pad for a new, public cooperation for all member institutions’ resources. Shared student programs, shared research labs, cooperative funding – name anything that folks on the academic sides of these enterprises could find appealing, and chances are it could be worked into the arrangement. All in the name of academic partnership and education.

So, to recap, what do the member schools get out of this?

  • Exposure to big markets on the opposite coast
  • An appealing proposition for recruits outside of their geographic area
  • A big TV payday
  • Diversified student base, as a result of exposure
  • Increased academic prestige by association with other top-tier institutions
  • Strength-of-schedule boost

Anyone have any complaints? There’s plenty to iron out, sure. But still, why wouldn’t the leagues do this? So many advantages, and so few drawbacks for both of them, it’s a unique concept that has yet to be brought to anyone’s attention. For those in both league offices, if you’re listening, read through this and give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?

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24 thoughts on “Why the ACC Should Create a Scheduling Partnership With the Pac-12

  1. It’s a good idea, but I think logistically doomed from the start.

    I don’t think programs like Florida State and Clemson would ever participate with 10 BCS games on the schedule each year. USC and Stanford will likely also have 10 games in any given year with Notre Dame.

    Also forces both programs to give up a home game, where the payout for a game like this would have to be far greater than what each program could earn hosting a mid-major on campus that weekend. In other words,

    BC revenue hosting UMass at Alumni Stadium +
    Stanford revenue hosting San Jose State at Stanford Stadium

    <<

    Revenue from BC-Stanford in NYC or San Francisco (split 26 ways?) –
    Travel expenses

    The PAC-12 has been a model for generating revenue but not ratings. PAC-12 football gets really poor ratings, even when compared to the ACC.

    • Very fair critique, Brian. I mean, in an ideal world, I think we’d all like to see eight-game conference slates in the ACC, which would better allow for something like this to happen.

      I’d like to see what the financial benefits end up being for this year’s USC-Syracuse game (and similar, neutral site contests). You’re likely right that the home game earns more, but I’m curious how close the number is.

      As for ratings, I think a few more Pac-12 games on the east coast would be a huge boost for ratings. Get a 3:30 ET kickoff, so midday for west coast folks. Even if you can’t grab Pacific markets, I bet more east coast fans tune in for those games than do for the “primetime” 9p.m. ET Pac-12 kickoff the league usually puts out each week. I suppose the other draw is bringing the game to transplanted alums. As a Syracuse fan in SF, it’s difficult to catch most games on TV, and I’m sure there’s plenty of other fans of teams on both coasts who feel similarly. But again, money has to be the most important part of these conversations, and you’re right, there’s a good chance it just doesn’t balance out at the end of the day, despite the non-tangible results like goodwill and attention.

        • That’s only true if it’s a late kickoff. A 5:00pm pst kickoff is a primetime start back east. Typical Pac12 games start between 1:00 and 5:00. There is no reason you couldn’t do an earlier start time, for example the Rose Bowl has always kicked off at 2:30.

        • Agreeing with Edward above. I actually think east coast teams have little to worry about, so long as the game is scheduled at a time that makes sense. Ideally, I think you’d want a noon PT kickoff, since that’s 3 p.m. ET. It stops west coast fans from having to wake up too early and also fails to interfere with east coast dinner hour. When SU was at L.A. Coliseum last year, it was easy for me in SF to get to a 2:30 PT kickoff.

    • The Pac12 ratings were low in large part because of their horrible TV deal. Bad timeslots and few games shown on national TV. That deal is over, the new Pac12 network kicks in this year. The networks didn’t pay big bucks because they thought the Pac12 couldn’t draw better numbers. As to programs like Stanford and USC, those schools usually play 11 BCS teams a year now. What they didn’t want to do it lock in to a game every year with a 9 game conference schedule. This proposal doesn’t do that, there are plenty of games to spread around. Remember the other 8 Pac12 schools loved the Big10 scheduling deal.

      • Right. I think that’s what limiting it to just two games per year helps avoid. No one feels overly locked-in to anything. And, for the schools like Colorado, Utah or Arizona State, who end up just throwing MWC teams on the slate to fill space, this arrangement gives them a much bigger matchup in non-league play.

  2. I’d also be worried about the Chick-Fil-A-ization of this series. Are programs guaranteed to play once every 4 / 3 years? The CFA Kickoff Classic, which has traditionally featured an ACC-SEC matchup, just recycles through the same set of ACC and SEC programs — Virginia Tech, Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, etc. There’s basically no chance a program like BC is ever playing in that game.

    If you guarantee participation, you also end up with a lot of dud games. For every USC-Florida State and Oregon-Clemson, there’s a Washington State-Duke and a Arizona-Wake Forest. Guaranteed participation will translate to a lower payout for both conferences over the long run (if the conferences are splitting the revenue).

    Also have to think about the network split between ESPN (all ACC, some PAC-12) and Fox Sports (PAC-12 Network). This challenge exists between the ACC and virtually every other major conference since the ACC is the only one with an exclusive deal with one network.

    • The first part here, like it would’ve been in the Pac-12/B1G series, would be guaranteed participation. I agree, the Chick-fil-a Kickoff deal is a joke in that it only grabs the same teams, all of whom are “southern” anyway. Hopefully that changes a bit once we officially have a “northern” wing to the conference (being BC, SU, Pitt & Maryland).

      Totally agree on the “dud” games, but with this setup, how often would they be? And even at that, if you’re Duke, playing WSU is actually a nice matchup that gives you a major conference non-league opponent whom you can actually grab a win against.

      The network split is the part we haven’t found a solution to yet, and admittedly, I’ll apologize for overlooking. Definitely an issue for this agreement. I’ve tried to be semi-supportive of the TV deal, but the more roadblocks we’ve found because of it, the more perturbed I get. I know there’s no renegotiating, but I really wish we could. If the Big East comes within $5M of the ACC’s deal, I’ll cry. And then call for Swofford’s dismissal.

  3. I think you are on to something with both conferences moving back to 8 games. Much more feasible to do something like this if a) all 24 teams are involved and b) the games are played at home. Neutral site games aren’t really workable, but if you use the extra conference game (down from 9 to 8) as a home game for one of the teams, I think programs would be more apt to buy into this.

    Still have to solve the schedule rotation and the TV revenue split, but at least this is more workable.

  4. First of all, I think this is a GREAT IDEA! At one point I was actually hoping for an ACC/Pac-12 combined TV network (how many viewers would THAT get?). Oh, well…

    Several comments have pointed out 2 potential problems: (1) some teams will already have 10 BCS-type games scheduled and wouldn’t want an 11th scheduled for them; (2) some teams might get left out. I think there is a simple solution to both problems.

    Don’t think of this as replacing the regular ACC/SEC match-ups… think of it as in addition to… I mean, if we look at the teams who have traditional BCS non-conference rivals, we get:

    Pac-12 OOC rivals: USC vs Notre Dame, Stanford vs. Notre Dame (as far as I know the other 10 teams are w/o OOC rivals, except maybe Utah vs BYU?)
    ACC:OOC rivals: BC vs. ND, Pitt vs ND, Wake vs Vandy, Clemson vs SC, GT vs GA, and FSU vs FL.

    That leaves us with a pool of 9 or 10 teams in the Pac-12 and 8 teams in the ACC – so just play THOSE teams! As long as you are trading only 2 games per year I think it’s fine. Further, by having a 9/8 ratio, it means that each cycle you’d be paired up with a different team, which is good.

    My only question is this – would you see each team playing 2 years in a row (home & away)? If so, you could even play the same team 2 in a row, knowing that when you rotate back through in 8 more years it will be against a different opponent. Also, if that’s deemed to be too long, make it 4 games instead of just 2…

    • It’s not a bad idea. Though if Notre Dame joins the ACC (I’m not holding my breath), things are made both easier and more difficult here at the same time. Not only does it eliminate an out-of conference scheduling need for the ACC’s schools, but several Pac-12 schools as well.

      You hit on a good point in the meantime, though. Limiting it to schools that don’t already have a permanent out-of-conference rival. So, with an all-inclusive nine/eight split, maybe the best solution is to play two games (home & home), but space them out by two years. So, if we’re on a four-year cycle, Washington would play at Maryland in year one, and Maryland would come to Seattle in year three. That way, no one feels like their schedule’s been overly stacked up. Originally, my idea was for four games per year, but again, we run into the scheduling issue. Too many commitments already in place. Plus, with cross-country travel, it’s just a lot to deal with, and a lot of costs per school.

      • I’d consider West Virginia a relatively permanent out-of-conference rival for Maryland. With the exceptions of 2008 and 2009, they’ve played every year since 1980, and have played 48 times in total.

        That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind seeing Maryland play a Pac-12 team, but with only three OOC games, it certainly becomes tricky.

        • The issue with WVU in particular, is that they have just as much history with Syracuse as they do with Maryland, and even more with Pitt. So I’d say that rivalry kind of goes by the wayside when push comes to shove here. Agreed that any scheduling agreement can only come to fruition if there’s an eight-game league schedule.

        • Whether or not the Maryland – West Virginia rivalry continues strong depends in part upon whether or not they want to continue playing Pittsburgh, and whether or not they want to use the Maryland game as a recruiting tool of sorts (since they heavily recruit MD). Who knows what will happen in the era of realignment.

  5. I read this a few days ago but wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I do like the idea of the ACC playing against the Pac-12 (assuming that the ACC reverts to eight conference games), but I’d also like to see additional games with the SEC … and possibly the Big 12 and Big Ten too.

    After a bit of thought, I’m not entirely sure there’s any one particular conference that the ACC should align itself with. The SEC sounds “nice” as far as a matching number of teams (and already-existing rivalries), but that doesn’t mean it’ll work if it’s forced.

    I do think that ideally, each ACC team should have one high-profile opponent on its schedule, and if it develops into a long-term rivalry, that’s great. Some rivalries either already exist or have that potential (WVU vs. Maryland, Pitt vs. Penn State). Others could take advantage of an unofficial Pac-12 / ACC thing (Syracuse, BC, and the Virginia schools make sense to me, playing games in MetLife, Gillette, and FedEx or M&T). The North Carolina schools could do it too, although I’d guess they have more interest in playing against SEC teams.

    It will be interesting to see how things turn out. Generally speaking, the ACC schedules pretty well out-of-conference.

    • Yeah, I mean, obviously speaking in hypotheticals here. I think it would be cool, but in no way am I sold on all the kinks being worked out just yet. Too many non-league rivalries (notably, the biggest rivals for Pitt, Wake, FSU, GT and Clemson are all out-of-conference. Plus, if we’re forcing it – again, Md. and SU also have rivalries with WVU, too) to make it really happen, plus too many additional commitments.

      HOWEVER, I do think this would actually assist the league in securing Notre Dame (with the right agreement), since they’d like to keep their series with USC (much easier if it’s locked in to a rough scheduling format).

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