Simple Rule Change Could Help ACC Scheduling

Very few teams are happy with the ACC Football Schedule this season.  It doesn't make much sense.  The match-ups are ill-timed and don't showcase the product in the best possible light, particularly on national television.

Recently, ACC Associate Commissioner Michael Kelly went on The Jeff Cameron Show to discuss the scheduling.  Give that a listen.  

One thing caught my ear.  Kelly talked about the freedom the ACC gives its teams in the non-conference, and the trouble it causes in scheduling.  ACC teams can pretty much schedule non-conference games whenever they choose.  That sounds good, but in reality it is a nightmare when trying to put together a schedule, as Kelly explained.  That needs to stop.  Yes, it will make things a bit tougher to schedule non-conference games, but the payoff is well worth it.  Here is the rule:

  • No non-conference games may be scheduled from October 1st to November 15th.   
  • A team may not be scheduled to play a conference game and another game in a seven day period.

Update:  Someone suggested a team be able to schedule a game in the "conference period" twice every four years.  This would be less restrictive on their freedom to schedule and would permit the scheduling of a home-and-home series in the four-year period.  That's something I will have to consider.

Why?

Establish A Defined Conference Season

Aside from great teams, what makes the SEC so great?  Predictability and tradition.  Georgia will play South Carolina very early in the season.  Alabama will play Tennessee the third Saturday in October.  Florida will play Tennessee the third Saturday in September.  Arkansas will play LSU right around Thanksgiving.  That's just a few.  There are many more.

The "Brady Bunch" arrangement that is the expanded ACC desperately needs consistency in its rivalries, particularly the games that are in-division.  My rule would provide that.

Sure, go ahead and have some fun with the two opposite-division games that rotate on a yearly basis.  But leave the the big in-division match-ups and the constant game with the other division as close to static as possible.  

Shouldn't FSU play Clemson in early November?  Shouldn't the ACC build to that match-up to decide the Atlantic Division?  

Shouldn't Virginia Tech play North Carolina late in the year in a cold-weather match-up to potentially decide the Coastal Division?

Shouldn't Miami and FSU square off in the traditional early-October contest when the sun is still shining throughout the state?  

Shouldn't Virginia and Virginia Tech square off on the same day NC State and UNC square off to decide state supremacy?  

Of course they should.  And my rule would allow it, I think.  By leaving the October 1st to November 15th window open, the ACC will have a clearly defined conference season in which every ACC team will play between five and seven conference games.  The only football during this time period will be ACC football.

Set Teams Up For Non-Conference Match-ups

The second benefit my rule affords the ACC is to set up the most favorable situations for the big non-conference battles.  The ACC is judged on BCS games, and three games at the end of the season:

FSU v. UF, Clemson v. South Carolina, and Georgia Tech v. Georgia.

The ACC can't control its BCS match-up, but it can and should encourage its three v. SEC representatives to schedule a cupcake or a bye before those games.  

Compare the teams the three ACC reps played before the SEC games, to those played by the SEC teams:

2010: FSU @ Maryland, Duke @ GT, Clem @ WakeTroy @ SCar, UGA Bye, App State @ UF.  

Perhaps the ACC thought Maryland would be awful, but the cold conditions in College Park are much easier to predict than the quality of the team.  Why make FSU travel 1000mi+ before representing the conference against Florida? 

2009: Maryland @ FSU, UVA @ Clemson, Georgia Tech bye  |  Kentucky @ UGA, FIU @ UF, South Carolina Bye

2008: FSU @ Maryland, Miami @ GT (Thursday), Clemson @ UVA  |  Citadel @ UF, Georgia BYE, South Carolina BYE

2007:  Maryland @ FSU, UNC @ GT, BC @ Clemson  |  FIU @ UF, UK @ UGA, SoCar BYE

In all, ACC teams played a conference game 11 of the 12 times before they played the SEC team.   SEC teams played a conference game just 2 of 12 times before playing their ACC game.  The ACC teams had one bye. The SEC teams drew a bye 5 times.  The ACC played zero D1-AA teams before their SEC match-up.  The SEC team played a D1-AA team twice.

It is undeniable that the SEC has dominated the ACC in terms of scheduling before an ACC-SEC match-up.  Why can't the ACC get smart with this?  Three goals for scheduling the week before the big SEC games to end the year.  These aren't rules, just directives:

1.  Encourage the three ACC teams to schedule a D1-AA cupcake.  

2.  If that doesn't happen, give the team a bye if they have not already played on a Thursday night (and thus used the bye before the Thursday-night game, by rule).

3.  Never make them travel.  Under no circumstances should FSU, Clemson, or Georgia Tech ever travel before representing the ACC in the three most important non-conference games.  All effort should be made to funnel Duke and Wake Forest to these three teams.  No offense to Duke and Wake, but they are historically the worst teams in the ACC by a large margin.  Teams in the ACC share equally in conference and TV money.  Wake and Duke can do their football part by playing a sacrificial road game before the marquee teams play the SEC games.  In that way, they are helping the ACC improve its image in football, and will receive more money in the next, bigger, TV contract.  To those who say this would hurt Wake and Duke in football, I disagree.  Teams like Wake and Duke occasionally have talented starters, but they have never had talented depth.  Playing a dominant team in the middle of the season could leave them worn out for several remaining games.  Playing in the second-to-last game of the year would leave the starters worn out for only a single game.  In that way, both the dominant team and Wake/Duke win.

This year, the ACC gave the 'Noles Virginia at home.  That's fine.  They gave Clemson a road game at NC State.  That is not ok.  And they gave Georgia Tech Duke, but it is at Duke, which really shouldn't be the case but is sometimes unavoidable.

No Short Rest

Part three of the rule should be known as the "No Short Rest" provision.  No team may play two games within seven days.  

Playing Thursday games after Saturday games, or Saturday games after Monday games, is a poor idea for many reasons.

It is simply bad football.  Teams do not have time to physically recover.  They do not have time to recover mentally.  They struggle to mentally "get up" for another game in such a short time period.  The coaches lack time to prepare the team for the game.  Sloppy football results, and the chance for an injury is higher because players are taxing their bodies that are not yet healed.

This is a terrible product to put on national TV representing the ACC.  People do not want to watch sloppy, undisciplined football.  Virginia Tech lost to James Madison in this very scenario last year.  FSU has lost games in this scenario to far inferior teams as well.  Why increase the chance that your product will be poor on national TV?  

The Violators

Which teams are in violation of this rule in 2011?

Violators of Rule #1:  "No non-conference games may be scheduled from October 1st to November 15th."

Here we have nine such offending games.  None of these would be considered marquee games for the conference.  

Sat 10/01:  Towson @ Maryland, UNC @ ECU, Bethune Cookman v. Miami, Idaho @ UVADuke @ FIU

Sat 10/08:  Central Michigan @ NC State, Louisville @ UNC

Sat 11/05:  Notre Dame @ Wake Forest

Sat 11/12:  Notre Dame @ Maryland

This must stop.  None of these games are rivalries such that they cannot be moved.  Heck, these games aren't even rivalries at all.  Yes, the Carolina legislature mandates that UNC play ECU, so I am told.  But it doesn't mandate that the game must be played in the middle of what should be a defined conference season.  This rule will not cause teams undue hardship.

 

Violations of Rule #2: "A team may not be scheduled to play a conference game and another game in a seven day period."

Here there are four violations.  Please note that I exclude the NC State @ Cincinnati violation here because that "two-game in seven days" scenario does not involve a conference game on either leg.

#1: Saturday NC State @ FSU, Thursday FSU @ Boston College.  

#2: Saturday Boston College @ Maryland, Thursday FSU @ Boston College

#3:  Saturday Georgia Tech @ Miami, Thursday Virginia @ Miami

#4:  Saturday NC State @ Virginia, Thursday:  Virginia @ Miami

Interesting that none of those games feature a team from the Carolinas.  Conspiracy theories aside, these two games featuring these four teams are likely to be sloppy contests between teams that are mentally and physically drained.  They also involve two of the longest road trips in the conference:  Virginia traveling to Miami, and Florida State traveling to Boston.

 

I firmly believe tightening up the non-conference scheduling with a common-sense approach to weekday games will improve the ACC product.  Thoughts?  Questions?  Concerns?  The opinions of all observers are welcome.

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