Saturday, December 21, 2013

ACC Already Finding Out That More To The Party Means More Griping

I've always been on the fence regarding all this conference expansion.  I was all for the ACC adding Miami and Virginia Tech in the early 2000s ... but reluctantly in it adding Boston College.  The Canes and Hokies were already in the ACC's footprint and would add some much needed football punch (both had recently been in BCS championship games).

Though it is ultimately about both, then it was more about the talent and the ACC football championship game than TV markets.  Since then, the ACC has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and (sort of) Notre Dame to the mix.  That has made this a 15-team league in basketball and a 14-team league in football.  I thought that the WAC went way over their heads in the 1990s when they were a 16-team league and that the Big East was headed in the same direction.

The WAC quickly broke up.  Half the league moved on to form the Mountain West Conference while the WAC kept most of the smaller programs.  Today, the Mountain West is thriving while the WAC doesn't sponsor football anymore.  The big Big East suffered the same fate.  The league fractured into many directions.  Some went to the ACC, Rutgers went to the Big Ten, West Virginia to the Big 12 and the non-football schools left to form the new Big East.  The leftovers are now in the American Athletic Conference.

A large membership like that is tough.  Tough to be able to get everyone's wants and needs under one umbrella.

Now we are in a new area of this.  The ACC and SEC are already 14-team football leagues (the ACC, again, has 15 in hoops).  The Big Ten will become a 14-team league next year with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.  The SEC is now stretched from Texas to Florida.  The ACC is as far south as Miami, as far north as Boston and soon as far west as Louisville.  The Big Ten will stretch from Nebraska to New Jersey.

Catering to all these schools will be tough.

It's already starting to show in the ACC.  Syracuse AD Daryl Gross has a problem with the ACC's football scheduling.  He doesn't like the fact that his program may go many, many years between trips to some of the premiere recruiting markets in the league, such as Miami and Atlanta.  For instance, Syracuse played at Georgia Tech this season.  It may be 2027 before the Orange get back to Atlanta for another game.

There have been rumors of solutions.  One is to add a ninth league game (the ACC now has eight).  The other is to realign divisions.  A third would be to eliminate those rivalry games.  One more is to just guarantee that you play everyone at least once in a two-year span.  That means you would go no more than four years between trips to any ACC city.

Right now, the ACC has two seven-team divisions that play eight conference games.  Syracuse will play the teams in the Atlantic Division (Florida State, Boston College, NC State, Wake Forest, Louisville and Clemson) once each year.  Their seventh conference game is against their cross-division rival, Pittsburgh.  The final game is against one other Coastal Division team in a home-and-home deal.  This year, they played at Georgia Tech.  Next year, Georgia Tech will come to Syracuse.  That means it will take rotations with the other six Coastal Division schools -- 12 years worth of games -- before the Orange will see Ga Tech again.  So if Syracuse is trying to recruit in Georgia, they can't sell the fact that he will get to play a game near his home.

Let's look at the pros and cons of each solution:

-- Adding a 9th game to the conference schedule would be the least messy move.  The 9th game would mean you could play two teams in the other division on that rotating basis.  That would mean that it would take half the time as it does now between trips to a city.  That would mean Syracuse would head back to Atlanta in either 2019 or 2020 ... eight years ahead of the current projection.  It isn't a cure-all, but it is much better.

The con in this would be that the ACC has committed to play Notre Dame starting next season.  Every season, five ACC schools will play Notre Dame in a "non-conference" game.  With nine conference games and Notre Dame on the schedule, that leaves just two games to work on.

Ah, but what if you are Florida State, Georgia Tech or Clemson who play rivalry games against Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, respectively?  Those schools, in the seasons they play Notre Dame, would have just one unscheduled non-conference game.  Usually you'd like a lower end school or a FCS school in that spot, which would leave next to nothing for any other game.

-- Realigning divisions, to me, does nothing.  No matter how you figure it out, someone will get screwed.  I've been a guy that's liked a more geographic split of the ACC (NORTH:  Boston College, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest;  SOUTH:  Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, North Carolina).  But I understand that it would keep a huge advantage to the South since that is where the better recruits are ... and also the better programs.

They way it is split up now is nearly fair.  Each division has a Florida school.  Each division has two North Carolina schools.  Clemson and Georgia Tech are split up.  It could be better, however.  My split proposal would be:

ATLANTIC:  Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia, Wake Forest

COASTAL:  Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia Tech

The only real change was swapping Virginia and Syracuse.  Virginia moving to the Atlantic means that each school in the league will go to the Commonwealth of Virginia at least once every other season.  Virginia-Virginia Tech get to still play their season-ending rivalry so it doesn't really make a huge difference.  Syracuse moving to the Coastal to split them up from Boston College, meaning every team will get a chance to play a game in the Northeast at least once every other season.  Semantically, Boston College should move instead of Syracuse since Boston is technically a coastal city, but the Cuse don't have the history in the conference and it wouldn't ruffle feathers to move them.

But, again, does it really solve anything?  Not really.

-- Eliminating those rivalry games is not an option.  I understand that not all of the cross division rivalry games are that meaningful.  Wake Forest-Duke isn't that important.  Neither is BC-Va Tech, Louisville-Virginia or Syracuse-Pitt.

However, Florida State-Miami is the biggest rivalry game in the ACC and the league isn't giving up that game every season.  Heck, that's the whole reason they split the leagues like they did so they could've had a FSU-Miami title game in Jacksonville (never happened).  NC State-North Carolina is probably the second biggest cross-division rivalry in the league.  Clemson-Ga Tech is no slouch either.

The ACC could choose to keep those three rivalries and break up the other ones but, again, it solves nothing.  Miami and Georgia Tech ... two of the teams AD Gross was complaining that he won't get to play much ... would still be involved in those rivalry games.

-- The final solution (hmmm, I should reword that) involves guaranteeing everyone plays at least once in a two-year span.  Right now, you don't play against five ACC schools in a given year.  The proposal means that you MUST play those five schools the following year.

I don't see how that works.  I mean, what's the point of divisions if you do this?  I guess everyone can have a three team list of schools they play every year and a rotation of the other 10 schools.

BC: Miami, Pitt, Syracuse,
CLEMSON:  Florida State, Ga Tech, Virginia
DUKE:  NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest
FSU:  Clemson, Ga Tech, Miami
GA TECH:  Clemson, Florida State, Louisville
L'VILLE:  Ga Tech, Pitt, Va Tech
MIAMI:  Boston College, Florida St, Syracuse
NC ST:  Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest
NO CAROLINA:  Duke, NC State, Wake Forest
PITT:  Boston College, L'ville, Virginia Tech
SYRACUSE:  Boston College, Miami, Virginia
VIRGINIA:  Clemson, Syracuse, Va Tech,
VA TECH:  Louisville, Pitt, Virginia,
WAKE:  Duke, NC State, North Carolina

Not bad off the top of my head, but ... again ... what's the point of the divisions?

To me, adding the 9th game would be the best option, though I can see that being a huge debate.

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