Back ACC Scheduling Challenges

Back To ACC

ACC Scheduling Challenges

By Dave Holcomb
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page

Even if the ACC cuts all non-conference games, there are still issues to be solved.

The new hot debate around college football this month is whether moving to a conference-only schedule could save the college football season. The ACC’s decision on whether to follow suit with the PAC-12 and Big Ten to eliminate superfluous travel with only conference contests is still pending, but even if the ACC cuts all non-conference games, there are still issues to be solved.

The most notable issue with only ACC games on the schedule for Atlantic Coast Conference teams is the fact that it will not reduce travel by very much in some cases.

For instance, a conference-only slate would mean Georgia Tech not traveling about 60 miles to Athens to play rival Georgia, but the Yellow Jackets would still visit Pitt, which is almost 700 miles from Atlanta. Florida State couldn’t play Florida even though those schools are 150 miles apart, but the Seminoles would still go more than 1,200 miles to Syracuse.

This issue isn’t completely unique to the ACC -- the PAC-12 cancelling non-conference games meant Arizona lost a contest against Texas Tech but still has to travel more than twice as far to face Washington in Seattle -- but it’s most prevalent in the ACC because the conference’s divisions are not based on geography. Syracuse and Boston College aren’t in the same division with Pitt and the Virginia schools and instead play Florida State and Clemson every year.

Therefore, simply moving to a conference schedule this fall might not be enough to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It might take a more drastic move, which the ACC appears ready to do.

In mid-July, reports surfaced that the ACC is considering a move to a home-and-home format inside the conference. If Notre Dame is included, which early indications are it will be, and if the conference is willing to play 10 games against each other instead of the typical nine, then the ACC could set up a slate with five home-and-home series for each school.

Unfortunately with 15 teams, there is no way to schedule five home-and-home series and give a group of schools common opponents. With a great emphasis on limiting travel, though, the teams each school plays could potentially look like this:

Boston College: Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Duke: Georgia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Miami, Wake Forest,
Clemson: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina
Florida State: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, NC State
Georgia Tech: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina
Louisville: Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia
Miami: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville
NC State: Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest
North Carolina: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest,
Notre Dame: Boston College, Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, Virginia Tech
Pitt: Boston College, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Syracuse: Boston College, Notre Dame, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Virginia: Boston College, Louisville, NC State, Pitt, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech: Boston College, Pitt, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia
Wake Forest: Clemson, Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Syracuse

Admittedly, it’s not perfect. The Cardinals face two teams from Florida while the Hurricanes will still have to travel to North Carolina. Furthermore, the Orange and Eagles both play two teams south of the Mason Dixon Line.

However, this setup installed for one season will help limit travel in a conference without geographic divisions. If that saves the ACC season, then it’s a no-brainer to move to an unbalanced schedule. Any football is better than none, and that’s true for the fans and schools dying to keep a portion of their football revenue.

While this unbalanced home-and-home slate might not land the best two teams in the ACC Championship Game (assuming there is one), it could spark new fan interest. Before the pandemic, Virginia and Virginia Tech renewing their rivalry after Thanksgiving this fall was a must-watch game, and now in this format, fans will see it twice. All four North Carolina schools will play each other twice, and old Big East rivals Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech will square off two times too.

It may be out of necessity, but a conference-only, home-and-home format is also creating a very unique scheduling opportunity for the ACC.