CHAPEL HILL — The ACC’s football scheduling format will change, but exactly how is still unknown.
With the launch of the ACC Network in 2019 in partnership with ESPN, the network wants more quality inventory to broadcast. Athletics directors discussed two proposals this morning.
How the ACC produces that quality inventory is the question:
- By expanding to a nine-game league schedule with one required non-conference game against an opponent from a Power Five conference.
- Or by sticking with an eight-game ACC slate but requiring two of the four non-conference games to be against Power Five conference teams.
If North Carolina coach Larry Fedora had his way, those discussions wouldn’t last long.
“I would much rather stay at eight-and-two … because right now I don’t believe that when Notre Dame is in the mix with you, that they count that as one of the nine,” he said. “So I’m not interested in doing that; I would much rather than the flexibility of being eight and two, and those two being Power Fives; I’m good with that.”
Scheduling mandates are a new trend, thanks in part to the College Football Playoff and the era of conference-affiliated television networks. The Big 12 and SEC require its teams to play at least one Power Five non-conference game.
This season, half of the ACC’s teams will play two Power Five non-conference games, while only Boston College will play none.
Notre Dame provides a unique opportunity for the ACC in guaranteeing the league's teams five non-conference matchups each season. But it also serves a challenge with an expanded schedule, especially for the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech, who play SEC rivalry games every year.
For example, there’s little chance that Florida State, if it had Notre Dame on its schedule in what would be a non-conference game, would want to play a team as strong as Mississippi, as it does on Labor Day weekend this year, because the Seminoles also play Florida annually.
Expanding the schedule would almost certainly mean that, outside of traditional rivalries, programs would be less inclined to take chances on high-profile non-conference games, such as UNC playing Georgia in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.
Fedora said that decision is above his pay grade, but he’d certainly make his feelings known to UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham.
“Would I have wanted to? No, but whether I would have been able to decide that, that goes above my head," Fedora said. "Bubba makes those decisions, I get to have my input, the final decision is him. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that, and that’s one of the luxuries of being eight-and-two, I think, is you can go out and find great matchups and do those things.”
Fedora did acknowledge that finding two Power Five opponents each season could be a logistical issue, once more conferences jump on board.
“The question with that will be whether, if you go eight-and-two, is there going to be enough inventory out there for everybody to go eight-and-two? That’s the tough thing,” he said.