A few weeks ago, the Richmond Times Dispatch’s David Teel wrote an article about how the ACC is considering using pods instead of divisions for the 2020 season to help alleviate scheduling concerns.
Since then, multiple reports have emerged that it’s the most likely route for the conference if football is played in 2020, along with an additional non-conference game.
Some of us at Tomahawk Nation say that’s not enough. Vive la révolution! Pods are the way of the future (as long as the correct circumstances are met)!
We wanted to share our thoughts on why, and on a few other related tangents, but we also want to hear yours. Check the questions down below, read our reasonings, and then continue the discussion in the comments below with your own answers and takes, so we can argue with each other and pretend it’s football season already.
Q: Are pods the best way to go for the ACC?
Evan: I really like the idea of pods. I feel that it allows for scheduling flexibility while maintaining a few teams for a base schedule. You can easily set it up so every team has a home and away game at least once every four years.
There is the problem of figuring out the champion from these pods as you have four pods instead of two divisions but that seems easy enough to figure out using tie breakers that currently exists for deciding who goes to the ACC Championship Game when two teams are tied atop a division. Yes, this based largely around football but that’s probably the most difficult sport to schedule considering the constraints on the number of days a week you can play along with the shorter schedule.
Matt: It depends on the number of teams in the league. I’ve mentioned this before, but my preferred way to go for the current 14-team league would be just scrapping divisions, pods, baskets, cohorts altogether. Every team would play one permanent rival and seven other games that rotated through on a rolling schedule. A 15-team league would be even better for the no divisions format, as teams could play two permanent partners and then flip-flop the other 12 teams each year, like an “a” schedule and a “b” schedule.
However, when you get to a 16-team league—which is where I believe the ACC is ultimately headed—the four pods makes the most sense.
Q: How many pods should there be?
Evan: Four pods seem about right. Teel did it with three pods but he’s a bit constrained with the current make up of the conference. Four pods really requires a 12 or 16 team conference so if the ACC could convince Notre Dame to join they’d just need one other team.
Matt: Agree, with 16 teams anything other than 4 pods doesn’t make sense.
Q: So what two schools come in as the 15th and 16th team?
Evan: I already mentioned Notre Dame above, and they are the clear first choice. To get to 16, I’d look to the Mountaineers. West Virginia is currently in the Big XII but that seems like a bad fit. They are not anywhere near the rest of the conference geographically speaking and if any conference blows up it’s likely to be the Big XII due to the Texas sized problem. Bringing WVU into the ACC puts them in close range to former Big East mates Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh and allows them to renew rivalries with Virginia Tech. The problem is that WVU doesn’t really move the needle from a TV contract stand point and I’m not sure their academics lines up well with the colleges from the triangle. This is a hypothetical though so I’m just going to hand wave away those concerns.
Matt: Notre Dame is a must-add. Let’s just be honest with the situation—as much as fans of ACC schools want to puff out their chests about not needing the Irish, adding Notre Dame in football would be a massive win and something that other conferences have dreamed of doing for decades. The reality is, Notre Dame is the only program in America that can make independence work in the current playoff environment, so swallow our pride and do what it takes to bring in a significant (and sorely needed) revenue boost.
Therefore, the real question to me is which additional program will be most compelling to our friends in South Bend? You ready for this? It’s Navy. One of the biggest reasons the Fighting Irish have resisted giving up their independence is due to how strongly they value being able to maintain traditional rivalries. Playing annually since 1927, Notre Dame and Navy have a relationship that’s arguably as strong and meaningful as FSU’s is with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In fact, without Navy, Notre Dame might have closed its doors for good during World War II. Simply put, the Irish are going to play Navy and USC every year. Of course, they’d like to play Stanford and BC most years too. Bringing Navy into the ACC (and placing them in ND’s pod) would mean their rivalry continues while still allowing for the flexibility to play Stanford, USC, and mix in other traditional rivalries like Northwestern, Army, or Michigan.
Q: There’s talk of ND playing in the ACC full-time in 2020—how would you design regional pods for a 15 team league?
Matt: The whole point of modified schedules due to COVID-19 is to prevent long-distance travel as much as possible, both from a fiscal standpoint and also limiting air travel. Therefore, I’d start at the center and work my way out:
Pod Two: Virginia Tech, UVA, Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College. BC and Syracuse have to stay together and it makes sense to keep the Virginia schools together too.
Pod Three: Miami, FSU, Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Notre Dame. FSU is the closest school Miami has in the league, and GT is the closest school Florida State has in the league, so those three fit well. UL and ND aren’t all that close to any league teams, other than themselves, which means they will have to fly regardless. So if they must fly, might as well put them with the Atlanta and Miami airports.
Evan: I agree — the ACC needs to keep the NC schools together so they don’t throw a fit and the northern schools group well together. The Clemson/UNC game could be interesting this year and you get “secondary” rivalry games on the schedule in Pitt/VT and GT/FSU. You also get Notre Dame to play in two of your largest cities assuming they play at GT and at Miami. I’d like to see ND play BC also because of the history there.
Q: Would your ideal pods be different in a 16-team league?
Matt: Yes. In non-COVID times, I’d give more weight to balance and rivalries, in addition to geography. Going with my ND and Navy additions, I’d say something like this:
Pod One: BC, ND, Pitt, Navy
Pod Two: UL, VT, UVA, Clemson
Pod Three: UNC, Duke, Wake, NC State
Pod Four: FSU, Miami, GT, Cuse
The Tobacco Road schools seem obvious, as do ND and their rivals. Cuse may feel out of place at first glance, but New York City is actually a hub for Miami alums and the Orange and ‘Canes played 21 times between 1970 and 2003.
Evan: Matt’s groupings are a bit more thought out than mine — however, I don’t think you need to have Wake with the NC schools. I get the obvious draw because of geographic proximity but I don’t get the feeling that the triangle schools care about playing Wake as much as they do each other. My pods are base around geographic location with a nod towards competitive balance in football, which is what matters the most in these pods.
Pod One: BC, Cuse, Pitt, WVU
Pod Two: UL, VT, UVA, ND
Pod Three: UNC, Duke, Clemson, NC State
Pod Four: FSU, Miami, GT, Wake
So you’ve heard our takes: what do you think? Add Notre Dame as a full-time member and go full pods? Keep things the way they are? Shake up the divisions entirely?