Maybe I'm a little late to the party here, but over the weekend I picked up and read Stewart Mandel's Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football. It's a good, quick read, even if some of the material is already dated (published in August 2007, Mandel was pretty adamant that the Big Ten and Pac-10 wouldn't expand any time soon ... yeah, about that).
(I mentioned I was a little late to the party on this one, right? Here's Corn Nation's review of the book, posted August 2007, and here's Team Speed Kills' take, two years later. I'll spare you the full book report and tell you that the book is basically one really, really long version of Mandel's popular SI.com Mailbag.)
Mandel tackles some of the biggest hot-button issues facing the sport of college football, everything from the BCS, polls, the Heisman Trophy, bowls with ridiculous corporate names, the coaching carousel that's spinning off its axis, the NFL Draft / college talent evaluation (ahem, Herzlich) and, our our personal favorite, conference realignment. As I was reading the book, I was surprised to see Mandel's chapter on conference realignment titled "How Boston College and Clemson Became Neighbors."
There are plenty of quotes and talking points to fill several offseason posts -- the offseason is a marathon, not a sprint, folks -- so I won't go into too much detail here. But one quote about BC's move to the ACC struck me as pretty interesting. While Miami was threatening to move from the Big East to the ACC, there was plenty of talk of the demise of Big East football and of losing its BCS status. Here's what Tom O'Brien told the Boston Globe back in 2003:
"If we don't stay with Miami, in 20 years we will be what people thought BC should have been 20 years ago -- a team that people thought should be at the I-AA level."
So, you mean like Holy Cross, right TOB?
Hindsight is of course 20/20, but funny how it hasn't exactly worked out that way. While Miami football gives the conference stability and helps it keep its BCS automatic bid, the Canes have been to all of zero BCS bowls since the move to the ACC. And due to the 5+2+1 ACC scheduling model, BC has faced Miami the fewest times -- just twice -- during the Eagles' first six years. Sometimes it feels like BC and Miami (and Duke and Georgia Tech) aren't even in the same conference ...
So BC stayed with Miami, but really didn't stay with Miami.
Long story short, the BC-Miami football series has been one of the unfortunate victims of ACC expansion. Say what you will about the series' lopsided nature, but it just doesn't seem right that two long-time Big East rivals don't play every year.
This situation could have been avoided if the conference placed BC and Miami in the same division back in 2004, but we mustn't screw up the division alignment such that Florida State and Miami couldn't meet in the ACCCG every year.
While the ACC likely won't be revisiting the Atlantic / Coastal Divisional split any time soon, they could help BC and Miami face each other more than once every three years by moving to a 9-game conference schedule. Brendan over at From Old Virginia masterfully lays out different ways of making this possible, so I won't go into detail here.
But I think a 9-game conference schedule is the next logical step. It probably won't happen right away given that the conference and ESPN are just heading into a 12 year media rights deal, but I think it will happen eventually. The Big 12(-2) is moving to a 9-game, round-robin conference schedule. The Pac-12 is keeping its 9-game rotation, and they were handsomely rewarded by TV for the extra game inventory. The schedule format is on the agenda during the B1G Ten's spring meetings, and if the Big East moves to 10 teams and invites Villanova or UCF or Houston or UMass or Don Bosco Prep, my guess is the conference will also move to a nine game, round-robin format.
A nine-game conference schedule would give the conference a larger inventory of games for its television partners and decrease the costs associated with luring hapless, I-AA and MAC opponents to campus (but these games, unfortunately, aren't the ones most likely to be removed from the schedule). The downside is that the so-called "elite programs" like Florida State might balk at the conference adding an extra hurdle to reaching the BCS at an at-large. For the past few years, only the Pac-12 has played a 9-game conference schedule and the conference has found it difficult to earn an at-large berth to the BCS. Correlation or causation? Further, the ACC has yet to produce a BCS at-large playing an 8-game sched ...
If the ACC doesn't move to a 9-game sched, removing the permanent rival from the other side of the conference would also speed up the frequency of BC-Miami games. But there's virtually no chance of this happening because that would eliminate the annual Florida State-Miami game.
What BC is left with is a schedule that may not have Miami on it over a span of three full seasons. Consider that this year's game against the Canes will be the first BC-Miami game for the senior class. Guys like Montel Harris, Donnie Fletcher and Kaleb Ramsey will get a shot at the 'Canes for the first time in their college careers. Crazy, right?
The ACC should really find a way to pit Boston College and Miami against one another more often, just not on the final weekend of the regular season.