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ACC On Track To End Football Divisions, Establish New Scheduling Format

It has become apparent over the years that the ACC would benefit from moving away from the divisional format schedule. Now, the idea of abolishing the two-division format used to determine its championship game participants is picking up momentum.

The most likely scenario that could play out is that each of the fourteen conference teams would be assigned three annual opponents, then rotate with the remaining ten teams every other season. This would give teams the ability to play each other at least once every two years.

If you take a look at how the SEC has put together their schedule, each school has one permanent opponent from each division. As an example, Tennessee plays Alabama every season, with the conference agreeing that this game should be permanent for both schools. The Vols would then play one other school from the Western division, along with their eastern division opponents.

The ACC has had the same problem that most conferences deal with on a yearly basis. ACC programs face almost half of their league rivals only once every six seasons, and only once every dozen years at home. Florida State has not played at Virginia Tech since 2012, which is a major problem. How do you go this long without having the Seminoles play in Blacksburg? The problem had gotten so bad for North Carolina and Wake Forest that they played a “non-conference game” in 2019 and 2021. These are the type of schedule problems that shouldn’t be plaguing the league, which is one reason we’re most likely getting a change.

Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich met with members of the media and hinted that a change was coming, but will still run it by TV rights holder ESPN.

“The 3-5-5 [model] at its core was student-athlete driven to be able to play around the league before you graduate. We’re closer to the end than the beginning on that. We need to talk a little bit to our TV partners (ESPN) to see what they think, kind of run it through the car wash one more time.”

The other part of this equation is the NCAA, which requires conferences that have 12 teams or more to have divisions in order to have a conference title game. The rule is scheduled to be amended by the NCAA, which will likely lead other conferences to get rid of the division format.

There are times when changes are needed in college football, and this is one of them. Giving fans and television networks more opportunities for better matchups should be a priority. And scheduling a game against a conference team, but using it as a “non-conference” games is laughable.

The overall benefits from this potential change will make its way to the SEC, which is already discussing four-team pods rather than divisions. This will mean teams like Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas could be in one pod, while also creating three additional pods. It’s all about getting away from the traditional format and giving each team a variety of opponents. Doing so will create the best games for television, which is a bonus.

Either way, the ACC looks to be getting its act together, hopefully by the start of the 2023 season. This will benefit college football in the long run, especially if we ever expand the playoffs.

Written by Trey Wallace

5 Comments

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  1. Assuming the current NIL “Trainwreck” continues largely unchanged … which is very likely the case … there are three ACC FB programs likely to corral (buy) the majority of top recruits in the near and long term future – Miami, Clemson, & FlaSt. Those schools have the most “aggressive” (LOL) Fat Cat Boosters, at least for FB.
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    The rest of the ACC will fight it out for 2nd / 3rd tier bowls – “Christmas in Shreveport”, etc. Assuming the 4 NC-based schools all get to resume their annual rivalries, the respective fan bases will get what REALLY matters to them …. HATED RIVALRIES. …even if those neighborhood rivalries are meaningless beyond the state lines.
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    • Most of the country gets fired up for Duke vs. UNC-Chapel Hill every season in men’s basketball.

      Football, not so much.

      That said, the pods, or permanent opponents, should be somewhat based on geography, even with the divisional concept being phased out in football (it already is in basketball).

    • The other Power5 “divisions” are based somewhat on geography – North/South … East/West … when the ACC split into divisions (pre-Dabo) it was assumed that FSU and Miami would dominate so they were put into separate divisions which blew up any geographic plan.
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      You are exactly right that “most ACC FB fans” have no clue or interest in which division is which…
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  2. It’ll be a little more difficult to pull this off with 14 teams (ACC, B1G) as opposed to the 12-team Pac12 and (in a few years) Big 12 or even a 16-team SEC. It’s kinda hard to put three-team pods together with 14 teams, but I guess we’ll see how this turns out.

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