It's been a good few months since our last juicy ACC division realignment rumor -- a popular topic around these parts -- so the season lull between conference championship weekend and bowl season affords us the opportunity to rehash this.
Internal emails show Atlantic Coast Conf. athletic directors plan to discuss changing football schedules & potentially amend ACC divisions— Gary Fineout (@fineout) December 18, 2013
That is the Associated Press' Gary Fineout, whose recent series of Tweets seems to suggest that tweaks to the ACC division alignment, scheduling or both may be (back) on the table.
Syracuse AD emailed ACC directors in Nov. lamenting current structure and said it minimized chance for teams to play in major media markets— Gary Fineout (@fineout) December 18, 2013
End of FSU-Miami every year? Syracuse AD notes there are "obvious playing partners" but said it better for ACC to eliminate them— Gary Fineout (@fineout) December 18, 2013
Syracuse appears to be leading the charge for changing the football schedules and/or ACC divisional structure which makes sense because, well, the ACC divisions don't make any sense. The ACC will soon be the only conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a divisional alignment not grounded in geography. The Big Ten's attempt at divisions based on competitive balance will be scrapped next year once Maryland and Rutgers join the conference; an experiment that lasted just three seasons.
The comment about "minimizing chance for teams to play in major media markets" is a curious one, especially considering Syracuse played in two of the ACC's top three media markets this season (at Georgia Tech and at Maryland) and will play in the other next season (at Boston College). Unless Doc Gross is referring to the Orange's forgettable trip to Tallahassee which, not much we can do about that short of hope that the Big 12 or Big Ten poaches FSU or the school decides to up and relocate to Orlando or Tampa or something.
N.C. State Athletic Director Debbie Yow reportedly told other ACC athletic directors that a "full vetting" of possible division restructuring will take place in January. In the past, realignment away from "Atlantic" and "Coastal" has gained little traction mostly because I don't think there's an obvious solution that keeps everyone happy. But with Louisville joining the league next year, now would be to time to revisit "Atlantic," "Coastal" and the cross-over schedule before things start getting serious with the Cardinals.
I have no idea whether Doc Gross's lamenting the current divisional structure will be enough to enact real change here or whether this proposal will simply be met with a collective, Doc Gross being Doc Gross eye roll from the old guard. If something is to come of this, however, I think there are only two real outcomes:
1. The ACC retains the current Atlantic / Coastal divisional alignment but either scraps the permanent cross-over opponents altogether or moves to a hybrid cross-over rotation similar to the one employed by the Pac-12's California schools. It doesn't make sense that Louisville and Virginia will meet every season. Other cross-over rivalries, including Boston College-Virginia Tech and Syracuse-Pittsburgh, are lukewarm at best. The current schedule exists to pair Florida State with Miami and the Carolina schools together.
The ACC could keep the same divisions, end five of the seven cross-over permanent rivalries, keep N.C. State-North Carolina and Wake Forest-Duke and rotate the rest. Though something about FSU-Miami and Clemson-Georgia Tech occurring once every 5-6 seasons seems to make this idea a nonstarter.
2. Go North / South by screwing Wake Forest (sending them to the North in a division with BC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Virginia and Virginia Tech) and scrapping the cross-over schedule altogether. This moves every permanent cross-over rival within the division with the exception of Wake Forest-Duke. However, this alignment does separate Virginia from both North Carolina and Duke. Good luck getting the UNC-Duke-UVa-Virginia Tech voting bloc to agree to that.
Boston College would prefer either outcome if it means reduced travel and playing both Pitt and Miami on a more regular basis, which I suspect is what Doc Gross is going for as well. However, I'm not sure how this latest attempt at division realignment / proposed scheduling changes will be any different that the half dozen that have preceded it.