On Friday, ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN that he is in favor of conferences having "the autonomy" to determine how teams qualify for their league championship game. Should the NCAA lessen restrictions on how conferences determine championship game participants, the ACC may consider a different scheduling / divisional format.
Currently, the NCAA requires that conferences that hold a conference championship game must have at least 12 teams split into two divisions, while every team must play each opponent in its own division.
If the NCAA were to lessen its title-game restrictions, Swofford said the ACC would consider having the top two teams in the league play for the ACC championship. The ACC would likely maintain the two divisions but not require teams to play every opponent in their division.
If those requirements were lifted, however, I have to question why the conference would stick to its current Atlantic / Coastal Division format. It seems much more logical to scrap the two division setup altogether and adopt a more flexible scheduling model using a mix of permanent rivals and rotating opponents.
Should the ACC be free to schedule as they see fit, I would propose a scheduling model where teams play three permanent rivals annually and rotate the remaining five to six conference games. This would allow the conference to protect annual rivalries while also playing rotating partners more frequently than at a once-every-six-seasons clip as they currently do.
Proposed permanent rivals:
|Rival 1||Rival 2||Rival 3|
|Boston College||Syracuse||Pittsburgh||Wake Forest|
|Clemson||Florida State||Georgia Tech||N.C. State|
|Duke||North Carolina||Wake Forest||Virginia|
|Florida State||Miami||Clemson||Georgia Tech|
|Georgia Tech||Clemson||Virginia Tech||Florida State|
|Miami||Florida State||Louisville||Virginia Tech|
|North Carolina||Virginia||N.C. State||Duke|
|N.C. State||North Carolina||Wake Forest||Clemson|
|Virginia||North Carolina||Virginia Tech||Duke|
|Virginia Tech||Virginia||Georgia Tech||Miami|
|Wake Forest||Duke||N.C. State||Boston College|
-- Bold, italics are must have's. The rest are a bit more flexible.
Under the above proposal, Boston College would face Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest (?) annually, while facing rotating opponents once every other year. Adding a ninth conference game would increase the frequency of rotating opponents ever so slightly. That's a definite improvement on the current alignment where BC will face non-Virginia Tech Coastal Division teams just once every six seasons. With the no division alignment, players would be able to face every other team in the conference at least once -- but likely twice -- over a four-year career.