No matter how many times I ask, the answer never changes. No, the ACC is not considering divisional realignment in football. No, despite considerable fan and media buzz, the issue is a non-starter among decision makers.
Most recently, I asked commissioner John Swofford last month and the athletic directors from Virginia Tech and Virginia, Jim Weaver and Craig Littlepage, this week. Neither anticipates changing the current Atlantic-Coastal split, the core of which has been in place since the conference expanded to 12 schools for the 2005 season.
The primary defense of the status quo is the balanced results they’ve produced. Atlantic Division teams are 75-69 against the Coastal in eight regular seasons, 4-4 in ACC championship contests.
But should balance be the top consideration? Would the league be better-served to produce games that sell more tickets and attract larger TV audiences?
Altering the ACC’s divisions became a lively topic again Tuesday when the conference released its schedule rotation for the 2014-24 seasons. The announcement detailed what had been known in theory for months: Some of the conference’s most attractive football matchups – think Georgia Tech-Florida State, Virginia Tech-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Clemson – will occur only twice every 12 years with the league’s growth to 14 teams.
Many, including the Raleigh News & Observer’s Andrew Carter and the Clemson-centric TigerNet.com, advocate a North-South split, with Miami in the North an outlier. But as you can see below, what this does is Balkanize the conference into the old ACC and the old Big East, with Virginia as an exception.
BC Wake Forest
UofL Georgia Tech
Miami Florida State
UVa N.C. State
The biggest, and perhaps only, advantage to this set-up would be assuring that the ACC’s four North Carolina teams play one another each season, which certainly would please Tobacco Road traditionalists and goose ticket sales at those schools.
Presuming the current schedule format of eight league games – I prefer nine – with an annual crossover opponent, the only way this alignment approaches appealing is if the crossovers include Miami-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Clemson.
Neither Carter nor TigerNet.com identified yearly crossover rivalries, so I took the liberty of listing their divisions in order of the best such matchups.
Regardless, if I’m Virginia or Virginia Tech, I fight such a split for all I’m worth.
A better idea comes from WRAL radio’s Adam Gold, who moves Louisville and Boston College from the Atlantic to Coastal, in exchange for Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. So here’s his proposal, also with annual crossovers listed in order.
Syracuse Boston College
Georgia Tech Louisville
N. Carolina St. North Carolina
Wake Forest Duke
Florida State Miami
Clemson U. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech fans likely would welcome annual games against Clemson and Louisville, not to mention dodging a revival of the Hokies’ yearly Big East dates with Pitt and Syracuse. Those rivalries once were compelling, but for some reason, Virginia Tech faithful seem none too eager to resume them.
Also, Gold’s divisions create annual games among Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson, which followers of all three schools crave.
I prefer a more radical approach that creates additional marquee games, almost certainly at the cost of balance. Again, the divisions are listed in order of annual crossovers.
Florida State Miami
Clemson N.C. State
Virginia North Carolina
Virginia Tech Louisville
Georgia Tech Wake Forest
Syracuse Boston College
Think ESPN would like annual games among Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech? Miami-Louisville, Miami-FSU, Louisville-Virginia Tech and the old North Carolina rivalries would be other staples.
Downside: The Atlantic would have arguably the ACC’s three best programs in FSU, Clemson and Virginia Tech, though Miami, Louisville and North Carolina could offer a worthy counter in the Coastal.
So call this the Big Ten method, though its stacked division, the East, isn’t as gerrymandered as these groupings.
This is a fun, but ultimately futile, exercise. The ACC has set its divisions – this year Syracuse joins the Atlantic, Pitt the Coastal, with Louisville replacing Big Ten defector Maryland in the Atlantic next year – and has announced a rotation through 2024.
Still, let's hear your suggestions. Maybe someone in power will listen.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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