By Marty Gordon
The landscape of conference affiliation for college football is in the process of changing, and the Atlantic Coast Conference needs to make choices soon that will keep them among the Power 5 conferences, which is quickly changing to the Power 4.
The key is adding new teams to the current ACC lineup. I believe the conference should look to West Virginia University, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame as new members.
WVU provides a perfect geographical bride for the ACC while Cincinnati needs to step up to a higher level in order to be recognized on the national stage. Notre Dame is just the ideal partner after what they showed last year in a one-year deal during COVID.
Any of the above conversation comes on the heels of the proposed move to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) by the universities of Texas and Oklahoma.
The two schools have officially begun their transition from the Big 12 to the SEC with the announcement Monday that they will not renew their grant of rights agreement with the Big 12, though they plan to “honor their existing agreements” through the 2024-25 term.
If Texas and Oklahoma were to leave the Big 12 early and make their SEC debut as early as next year, each school could owe up to $80 million to the Big 12 as a penalty for leaving before the TV rights contract expires.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the remaining eight members are disappointed with the decisions of these two institutions, but they recognize that intercollegiate athletics is experiencing rapid change and will most likely look much different in 2025 than it does now.
“The Big 12 Conference will continue to support our member institutions’ efforts to graduate student-athletes and compete for Big 12 and NCAA championships,” the commissioner said. “Like many others, we will use the next four years to fully assess what the landscape will look like in 2025 and beyond. The remaining eight institutions will work together in a collaborative manner to thoughtfully and strategically position the Big 12 Conference for continued success, both athletically and academically, long into the future.”
The additions of the Longhorns and the Sooners to the SEC would create the first 16-team super conference.
This would leave the ACC looking at a lower spot on the totem pole, especially when it comes to any future television agreement.
The current division structure leads to each team playing the following games:
Six games within its division (three home, three away, one against each opponent).
One game against a designated permanent rival from the other division (not necessarily the school’s closest traditional rival, even within the conference). This is similar to the SEC setup.
The permanent cross-division matchups are as follows with the Atlantic Division member listed first: Boston College–Virginia Tech; Clemson–Georgia Tech; Florida State–Miami; Louisville–Virginia; NC State–North Carolina; Syracuse–Pittsburgh; Wake Forest–Duke.
One rotating game against a team in the other division, for a total of two cross-division games.
Non-permanent cross-division opponents face each other in the regular season twice in a span of twelve years.
Prior to the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh in 2013, teams played two rotating cross-division games (for a total of three cross-division games), with a total of eight conference games. The addition of one team to each division meant the loss of one cross-division game per year.
Four non-conference games.
As of the 2014 season, one of the four non-conference games was against Notre Dame every two to three years, as Notre Dame plays five ACC opponents in non-conference games each season.
Starting with the 2017 season, ACC members were required to play at least one non-conference game each season against a team in the “Power 5” conferences. Games against Notre Dame meet the requirement. In January 2015, the conference announced that games against another FBS independent, BYU, would also count toward the requirement.
ACC teams can also meet the requirement by scheduling one another in non-conference games; the first example of this was announced in January 2015 when North Carolina and Wake Forest announced that they would play a home-and-home non-conference series in 2019 and 2021.
For the 2020 season, changes were made to the football schedule model due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of divisions was suspended with conference games being scheduled on a regional basis. The top two teams by winning percentage against conference opponents will advance to the ACC Championship Game. All teams will play 10 conference games and may play one non-conference game of their choice as long as the game is played in-state. In addition, Notre Dame will play an ACC conference schedule and will also be eligible to play in the ACC Championship Game.
The ACC currently has 15 members playing football. Notre Dame played a COVID-19 ACC schedule this past year and would be the ideal full-member. WVU and Cincinnati both bring not just a strong football program to the table but also a strong basketball program
Eighteen members would also give the ACC the right amount of clout as the college football landscape becomes a reality.
Under the current model, the two divisions could remain and each team would be guaranteed seven games each year within the division. This can include two crossover games with the other division and two out-of-conference games.
Let’s make it happen, ACC.