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ACC Latest Conference to Eye Division Elimination

Paul Steinbach
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Whether to keep or eliminate divisions was one of the biggest topics for Atlantic Coast Conference administrators, athletic directors and coaches midway through this week’s ACC spring meetings.

As reported by Action Network, the ACC joins the Mountain West Conference and the Mid-American Conference also have division elimination on their dockets.

Several ACC athletic directors said the league has focused on a “3-3-5 scheduling model” without divisions. League schedules would consist of three games against permanent opponents and then five games against teams the next two seasons in a home-and-home format. After two years, the teams would replace those five teams with the remaining five league teams they didn’t play the previous two years.

This would allow each ACC football player to play every team in the ACC at least once in a four-year career.

“You know, there are pros and cons — you could have a rematch — and we understand that,” Florida State athletic director Michael Alford said. “But at the end of the day, if you have two of the marquee teams — whoever that is — having great years, playing for a championship game, that’s going to help our brand across the country and on television.”

Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich said the ADs are “closer to the end than the beginning” on finalizing their decision on divisions and selecting permanent partners. The ACC also is asking for scheduling input from ESPN, which owns the ACC Network.

There are some schools, however, that may not favor eliminating divisions, a source said.

“The schools in the Coastal want to keep divisions,” the source said. “But the schools in the Atlantic want to eliminate divisions.”

The reason is simple, according to Action Network's Brett McMurphy. Since 2013, each of the seven Coastal Division teams has won the division, while Clemson has dominated the Atlantic Division, winning five of the past six division titles.

This month, the NCAA Council is expected to approve a waiver allowing all leagues to play without divisions starting in 2023 but still hold conference championship games. The waiver will not require teams to eliminate divisions, but it provides that option.

Besides increasing the frequency of matchups within the ACC by eliminating divisions, the conference is guaranteed its best two teams would play in the league championship. That league champion, in theory, would be better positioned to earn a College Football Playoff berth.

“It creates more excitement for sure,” Alford said.

As reported by The Athletic, aspects of the current format make little sense. For example, Duke and NC State, which are located 30 minutes apart, play each other once every seven years. Fellow Tar Heel state schools North Carolina and Wake Forest — who make up the state’s oldest rivalry — were also scheduled to meet once every seven years before they took matters into their own hands, scheduling each other as a non-conference game in 2019 and 2021.

Miami and Wake Forest have not played since 2013. Their scheduled 2020 meeting was a casualty of the pandemic, and they are not on each other’s future announced ACC opponent schedules, which go through 2024.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, plays each ACC school roughly three times over every five-year span, despite not being a conference member in football.

The Athletic lists the following as ACC members' potential permanent opponents:

Boston College — Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech

Clemson — NC State, Georgia Tech, Florida State

Duke — North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech

Florida State — Miami, Clemson, Syracuse

Georgia Tech — Clemson, Duke, Louisville

Louisville — Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech

Miami — Florida State, Boston College, Pittsburgh

North Carolina — Duke, NC State, Virginia

NC State — Clemson, Wake Forest, North Carolina

Pittsburgh — Louisville, Miami, Syracuse

Syracuse — Boston College, Florida State, Pittsburgh

Virginia — Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest

Virginia Tech — Virginia, Louisville, Boston College

Wake Forest — Duke, NC State, Virginia

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