Virginia Tech’s best football team of the last six years, the 2009 bunch that featured Ryan Williams, Tyrod Taylor, Cody Grimm and Rock Carmichael, did not reach the ACC championship game. No matter that the Hokies were the conference’s hottest team in November. No matter that after dusting Virginia in the regular-season finale they were ranked 12th nationally, second only to Georgia Tech among league teams.

The reason was not complicated. Per NCAA rule, conference championship football games pit two division winners. Tenth-ranked Georgia Tech won the ACC’s Coastal Division, unranked Clemson the Atlantic, and they clashed in the title contest, the Yellow Jackets winning 39-34.

Virginia Tech watched from afar before routing Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to earn a No. 10 poll ranking, the program's highest finish in the last half-dozen years. 

The ACC and other major conferences want to erase that pointless NCAA regulation, and when (not if) they’re successful, the manner in which those leagues not only determine their champion but also rotate their schedule could change dramatically. Emphasis on “could.”

“It doesn’t mean that we would necessarily change what we’re doing right now,” ACC commissioner John Swofford told the David Glenn radio show in Raleigh, N.C., last week. “But it would give us the autonomy to do so.”

Autonomy is the prevailing theme among the five power conferences: ACC, Big 12, Pacific 12, Southeastern and Big Ten. They want to govern and finance college sports without the constraints often imposed by more modestly funded NCAA Division I schools, and chances are they will get it.

Similarly, change has been the operative word surrounding ACC football for a decade, and regardless of how the NCAA legislative process transpires, more is needed.

Such change is unlikely to be approved at the conference’s annual winter meetings later this month in Florida, but rest assured, there will be spirited discussion.  

The ACC revolution began in 2004, when the league grew from nine to 11 with the addition of Virginia Tech and Miami. Boston College arrived a year later, giving the conference the NCAA-established minimum membership to stage a championship game.

Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined this past football season, expanding the rolls to 14. Next season Louisville replaces Maryland, while a limited partnership with Notre Dame also kicks off.

Each move has altered the ACC’s scheduling model, and tweaking/blowing up the league’s divisions and permanent crossover partners has become a cottage industry among fans, media and conference officials.

"Each time you grow, you have to have these types of conversations," Swofford told Glenn.

As detailed in this June post, there are myriad divisional models, and I’m all for changing the seven-team groups to create more frequent matchups among football staples such as Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson. But with the contrasting agendas inherent with such a large conference, good luck reaching consensus — Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman has compared the challenge to herding cats.

Schools that prefer the status quo have one ally: parity between the Atlantic and Coastal. In nine seasons, the Atlantic is 82-76 versus the Coastal during the regular season, 5-4 in championship games.

But the status quo also means that other than your permanent crossover (Boston College for Virginia Tech, Louisville for Virginia), you play teams in the opposite division only twice every 12 years. Translation: a Tech or U.Va. player could go his entire career without playing Florida State or Clemson.

That’s mad, and the easiest fix is to grow the conference schedule from eight to nine games, and/or eliminate permanent interdivision partners. Indeed, other than North Carolina-N.C. State and Florida State-Miami, the crossovers don’t seem worth saving.

Such was the essence of an email, obtained by the Associated Press, that Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross sent to his ACC colleagues.

“If we played everyone in the league equally, our schedules would be much more robust, giving our fans diverse schedules annually,” Gross wrote. “Also our student-athletes would get exposures in all markets of the conference. Lastly, we could maximize our television inventory by offering multiple and fresh matchups.”

More specifically, Gross raised the prospect of playing everyone in the conference at least once every two years. In a nine-game ACC schedule, for example, the four schools that were not on your schedule one year would automatically appear the next.

That would eliminate permanent divisions or annual games against each division rival, which speaks to a notion Swofford has floated: pairing the league’s highest-ranked teams in the championship game.