Suggestions for overhauling ACC football’s divisions and conference schedule sprouted anew last week when the league announced a rotation of crossover opponents for the 2014-24 seasons. I chimed in, and readers offered several creative alternatives.
This week, cyberspace has heard from two other precincts: Andy Bitter, the tireless Virginia Tech beat reporter for the Roanoke Times and Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, and TheKeyPlay, the often-amusing, always-twisted Hokies fanatic and blogger.
TKP proposes keeping the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions intact, which ACC officials seem intent on, but ditching the crossover rotation in favor of priority partners based on recent league performance (details here). The better teams would play one another, creating more attractive matchups for spectators and television viewers.
The idea has merit and is similar to one offered via email by reader Louis Smith of Columbia, S.C. He believes the ACC should alter divisions every two years based on results, not unlike English soccer’s Premier and Champions leagues.
Smith’s model, detailed below, guarantees all teams meet at least once every four years, correcting a serious shortcoming in the ACC’s system. TKP’s leaves open the chance of contrasting programs such as Florida State and Duke never playing – not that anyone is clamoring for that matchup.
Bitter’s model (link here) is perhaps the most radical, eliminating divisions and matching the first- and second-place teams in the ACC championship game. As he notes, this would require changing NCAA rules that mandate divisions in order for a conference to stage a title contest.
Absent divisions, Bitter proposes that each team have three partners it plays annually. You then would play five other conference rivals one season, the other five the next, creating matchups among every league team once every two years, about three times as often as the ACC system.
Like Bitter, I don’t believe his idea, or any other for that matter, has a ghost’s chance of becoming reality. But my only quibble with his was the permanent partners.
Here are Andy’s:
* Florida State -- Clemson, Miami, N.C. State
* Georgia Tech -- Clemson, Miami, N.C. State
* Louisville -- Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech
* Miami -- Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech
* North Carolina -- Duke, N.C. State, Virginia
* N.C. State -- Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
* Pittsburgh -- Boston College, Louisville, Syracuse
* Syracuse -- Boston College, Louisville, Pittsburgh
* Virginia -- Boston College, North Carolina, Virginia Tech
* Virginia Tech -- Louisville, Virginia, Wake Forest
* Wake Forest -- Clemson, Duke, Virginia Tech
Here are mine, rooted in this theory: The four North Carolina schools should play one another every season, as should Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State, as well as Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College. Those matchups make sense geographically and, most important, are what the paying customers want.
All of which means:
* Boston College – Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Miami (ESPN would wear out Flutie-to-Phelan replays)
* Clemson – Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
* Duke – North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest
* Florida State – Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami
* Georgia Tech – Florida State, Clemson, Virginia
* Louisville – Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse
* Miami – Florida State, Boston College, Louisville
* North Carolina – N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest
* N.C. State – North Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke
* Pittsburgh – Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia
* Syracuse – Pittsburgh, Boston College, Louisville
* Virginia – Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech
* Virginia Tech – Virginia, Clemson, Louisville
* Wake Forest – N.C. State, Duke, North Carolina
Prefer a more basic approach, one steeped in ACC culture? The ACC Sports Journal's Jim Young has you covered.
Based on this map, he proposes Waffle House (North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, FSU, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech) and IHOP (BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Miami, Louisville, Virginia and, because of its plethora of northern students, Duke) divisions.
Again, can’t stress enough how entrenched ACC officials appear to be with the divisions and schedule they have crafted, making all this little more than offseason fantasy football.
Here’s the full text of the email in which Smith outlines his English soccer model:
Needless to say this model is a bit radical, but considering the underwhelming overall persona of ACC football, this is a surefire way to build a national image and produce significantly more attractive games on the gridiron during the regular season.
We start with going back to a 9-game schedule and then pattern the divisions along the English Football model.
Utilizing a team’s running 3-year conference record (ACC or Big East for initial placement), and letting Louisville assume Maryland’s place for model purposes, the 2013 divisions would look like this:
(3-year records showing)
Va. Tech 19-5
Ga. Tech 14-10
NC State 13-11
*Miami was 1-0 vs. NC State from 2010-2012
Division teams play each other 1x, and only division records count toward division standings.
Inter-division schedule 3x, with one set home/away over a two-year period, plus two rotating contests based on how long it’s been since teams have played one another, ensuring at least one contest between all 14 teams within a four-year (recruiting) period. League schedules would be set in two-year segments once standings are confirmed.
The ninth conference game would be a home game for the upper division teams as a reward for performance. A nine-game rotating league schedule like that originally adopted then jettisoned penalizes the league’s more attractive programs, weakening the overall league over time. Under this format, those programs most responsible for driving league fortunes are not financially penalized, while more league contests are available as programming.
Division winners meet at year’s end in David vs. Goliath fashion, though the lower division team could very well be an upstart. This ensures that every program has an equal shot at a conference championship and marquee bowl game each year.
Every two years, the worst performing team in the upper division, based on its overall running three-year conference record, is replaced with its superlative counterpart in the lower division for another two-year cycle, and so on.
The emphasis is on the regular season and creating more opportunities for more attractive contests for fans and TV audiences alike. For the league’s top programs, SOS would be a thing of the past. Lower division programs would have better opportunities for bowl eligibility as well.
The divisions as they are constructed now are manufactured according to equilibrium in hopes of creating a compelling league championship game. To me that’s too much emphasis on one single weekend at the expense of many compelling weekend matchups through the season. The ACCCG has been an underachiever since its inception, and it’s hard to see that changing considerably in the years ahead as we’re basically maintaining the status quo just now we have a few more teams.
Divisions themselves have little national traction as they stand today. Moving to very identifiable division structures would have the opposite effect. The B1G figured this out with their amorphous division titles, and though the divisions are now imbalanced, they make much greater sense to the casual fan outside of the B1G’s footprint, plus the added benefit of there being more compelling division games in that league than there were previous.
With a four-team football playoff on the horizon, it’s hard to see a program emerge at the top of this kind of competition and not make it in. Even a Premier Division second-place finisher would have a shot if we’re talking about a one-loss team.
Food for thought at least.
Keep those ideas coming.
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