The ACC made a tectonic shift on Wednesday when it announced, among other things, that it would retain an eight-game conference schedule in football going forward. What are all of the elements of that innocent-looking press release, and what does it all mean?
The first thing to catch your eye is probably this statement:
“the league has determined it will play an eight-game conference schedule for 2013 and beyond”.
This is huge for teams like Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech who play annual non-conference games against in-state rivals, because it allows them to continue scheduling one additional BCS-AQ-level opponent each year, while still maintaining the 7/5 home/away split which is so desirable from a financial point-of-view.
Another noteworthy statement under the football heading is this:
“Divisions, primary crossover partners and rotating opponents from the opposite division will remain consistent to what was previously announced”.
In other words, no North/South divisions at this time (Oh, well — can’t win ‘em all).
But this release covers a lot more than just football, and it impacts things from TV ratings, revenues, rivalries, and general fan goodwill toward the conference.
The first statement under this heading is fairly bland:
“The ACC will continue to play an 18-game conference schedule with the addition of Notre Dame.”
No change in the number of games per season just because we are adding one more team — but then, we didn’t expect that part to change anyway. The next part is a big change intended to make fans happier throughout the ACC:
“The scheduling model will be based on a two-partner format… Each year, teams will play every league opponent at least once with the two partners playing home and away annually.”
The Tobacco Road teams will be happy about this because they were not pleased about playing each other less often. Now they won’t have to. But I think this will be seen as a positive in other parts of the ACC as well. To see what I mean, let’s take a quick look at the basketball partners.
Boston College: Notre Dame, Syracuse
Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech
Duke: North Carolina, Wake Forest
Florida State: Clemson, Miami
Georgia Tech: Clemson, Notre Dame
Maryland: Pitt, Virginia
Miami: Florida State, Virginia Tech
North Carolina: Duke, NC State
NC State: North Carolina, Wake Forest
Notre Dame: Boston College, Georgia Tech
Pitt: Maryland, Syracuse
Syracuse: Boston College, Pitt
Virginia : Maryland, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech: Miami, Virginia
Wake Forest: Duke, NC State
How does this help the ACC football powers? Consider places like Tallahassee where quality basketball is played, yet the money sport is clearly football. This will allow the school to reduce travel costs incrementally because the two partner teams are both fairly close.
It also helps all teams financially in another way as well. Take a close look at those partnerships. There are some really good matchups in that list, like Duke/UNC, Maryland/Pitt — but all of those were in the old proposal as well. What this plan adds is some additional rivalry match-ups like UNC/NC State, Maryland/Virginia, and Pitt/Syracuse. It also keeps old rivalries like BC/Syracuse and BC/Notre Dame, while adding some intriguing new pairings like Ga Tech/Notre Dame. To the extent that these basketball pairings draw high TV ratings they will enhance the value of the TV contract with ABC/ESPN.
I’m going to skip over the information about the ACC basketball tournament and go directly to this statement:
In the annual ACC/B1G Challenge, the decision was made to include the 12 teams with the best RPI from the previous year.
Why is this important to schools like Florida State and Clemson? Because it guarantees a fair and unbiased treatment of those schools, at least when it comes to the Big Ten Challenge. The so-called “football” schools have felt for some time that they do not always get a fair deal from the ACC, but this new policy guarantees them that if they finish in the top 12 in basketball, their team will be able to participate in the Big Ten Challenge the following year.
Many of the traditional ACC schools take pride in their baseball teams, but again, there has been some grumbling among the fans that the ACC tournament has been gerrymandered over the years to favor the teams from North Carolina. Many fans were particularly unhappy with the “round robin” tournament format, preferring the old “double elimination” format instead. This release makes it official that the ACC will return to the old format beginning with the 2014 season.
Conference Policy and Procedures
One final statement, almost hidden at the bottom, will also play well in Tallahassee and Clemson:
The decision was made that should a member institution be ineligible for postseason competition due to NCAA sanctions, it will be ineligible for regular season or divisional recognition.
Why does this matter? Because it applies to the UNC Tar Heels football team, and the conspiracy theorists outside of North Carolina are convinced that the ACC never does anything to punish its favorite son, UNC. This should set some minds at ease, if only until the next conspiracy theory comes along…
Read more from Hokie Mark over at ACCFootballRx, where he gives his prescription for fixing what ails the ACC on the gridiron.