A restructured ACC?: What ifs on changing league during pandemic


by - Senior Writer -
Could Clemson's route to Charlotte be a little different in 2020?
Could Clemson's route to Charlotte be a little different in 2020?

As the pandemic continues to cause havoc across our beautiful country, no one knows what a college football season will look like. No one knows if college football will happen, and even the most optimistic of people know that numbers need to dip in a major way before we can make decisions.

However, it’s the off-season, and we are allowed to look ahead at what the season might look like and what teams will wind up playing and if any programs will simply shutter their doors this season.

Remember when certain people were convinced that Clemson was headed to the Big 12? Remember the radical realignment that took place across the college football landscape over a decade ago? The staff of TigerNet had a few of those discussions this week, wondering what might happen with the ACC. As of this week’s latest measures and data, no team from South Carolina, North Carolina or Florida can travel to New York without a 14-day self-quarantine. Other states are following suit.

That made me wonder if the league might decide to alter the divisions a little bit, at least for one season. I posed the idea to Brandon Rink and it’s no surprise that we had radically different ideas.

New divisions

David Hood: I will present my idea first, and it’s predicated on ease of travel (distances) while still trying to keep rivalries intact.

I would stick with two divisions, trying my best to divide them up regionally. Obviously, there are more teams in the deep South than there are in the North, but I did what I thought would make the most sense.

Here is what I came up with, and I am adding not Notre Dame because who knows how their national schedule will look. Also, I am not trying to make anyone mad, but I would pay homage to two of the most successful coaches in their schools’ history.

The Frank Beamer Division

Boston College

Syracuse

Pittsburgh

Virginia

Virginia Tech

UNC

Duke

NOTE: My first thought was that I would add Louisville to the Beamer Division and then add one of the North Carolina schools. However, the more I thought about it, the more I decided to keep two of them together and put two of them in the other division. That means UNC and Duke are Beamers for now.

The Bobby Bowden Division

Clemson

FSU

Miami

NC State

Louisville

Wake Forest

Georgia Tech

Each team plays six division games, and if the North Carolina schools still want to play the other two that can be their cross-division rivals. In the case of Clemson, it could play Virginia as planned and the Tigers can add someone like Virginia Tech.

Obviously, with things so out of whack, I wouldn’t mind it if the two highest-ranked teams (regardless of division) play in the ACC Championship Game. That just makes sense for everybody.

No divisions

Brandon Rink: My scenario takes into effect that playing a full 12-game schedule could be tricky this year. There would need to be some NCAA waivers involved to carry it out and how other Power 5 leagues handle things will certainly play a factor as well (especially in regards to the postseason).

In general -- pandemic or no -- I’m in favor of a pod-style system that allows for a Clemson athlete to see the whole conference in a 4-5-year span. I’m not sure what Clemson is gaining from being locked into home-and-home bouts with Wake Forest and Boston College in division action and not seeing a Virginia Tech, UNC or Miami for several years. I'd have smaller set of regular opponents to be able to rotate to more matchups year-to-year.

Back to the pandemic hypotheticals, revenue is the driving factor in playing the season as scheduled or compiling a 12-game regular-season somehow. The number of fans who can be in the stands will weigh heavily there, as well as what TV networks can handle and/or demand. If stands have to be empty or close-to-empty, cutting the season down by a few games doesn’t make as big an impact financially on that end. That’s what we’ve seen with plans at the professional level that have significantly cut down their planned games without a fan presence.

Here’s where some added regionalization and shortening the season has benefits: 1) Cutting down on travel expenses with schools more cash-strapped and 2) traveling with a little added safety regionally and 3) just getting in a legitimate season are the factors in play here in 2020 (again, just spitballing here and this idea comes with no knowledge of proposed plans from the ACC or elsewhere).

Here, we cut the season down to nine total games plus an ACC Championship.

Banner Society proposed having four protected opponents per year in a story last year. So I would tweak that to basically make the ACC division-less in a six-game schedule and take the top two records, adding Notre Dame to the mix like they are in the proposal since they were set to play five ACC opponents this year anyway and their national schedule could be tough to accomplish this year.

ACC play for Clemson would look something like: Georgia Tech, Miami, Wake Forest, Florida State, NC State, Virginia.

There are three non-conference games that are up to the schools’ discretion on scheduling and may come down to contracts in place already (A precedent has already been set for ACC non-conference matchups and the Clemson-Notre Dame game could still be on in that case).

In tiebreakers, potential head-to-head matchups could be used and then CFP committee rankings next in line.

Obviously a lot of logistics are involved here but it’s a hypothetical attempt to remedy some of the ongoing issues with a 2020 campaign. The no-division plan could work with an eight-game league schedule just as well, extending out the hyper-regionalization though.

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