While conference football scheduling was a hot topic at the spring ACC meetings in Amelia Island, Florida, at least with the media, no scheduling changes were made. Though no chances were made, there was no shortage of ideas being thrown around. One was to designate certain weekends of the year for non-conference games, leaving the middle weekends during the season exclusively for league (plus Notre Dame) games.
"We did talk a little bit about how we might schedule structurally in the league where we put nonconference games in specific slots in the schedule," Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "We could play in the early couple weeks or at the very back and then leave the middle for conference games, so that allows you that opportunity to ramp up a little bit on the front end and hit your stride when you get into the conference."
What a cool idea. It's amazing that no one has ever thought of this before.
This is an easy next step in the evolution of the league's football schedule. I've long been a proponent of taking back a bit of the non-conference scheduling flexibility programs enjoy for designating set weekends where programs can schedule non-conference games. With the Big 12 and Pac-12 at nine games and the Big Ten planning to join them, the number of opportunities to schedule non-conference games against power conference teams is dwindling anyway.
Taking back some of the individual school's scheduling flexibility would allow the conference to optimize their own TV inventory first. Instead, the conference simply gloms the league schedule around existing non-conference scheduling obligations which can lead to an unbalanced schedule when it comes to weekly marquee matchups and quality TV inventory.
If the conference decided to constrain non-conference games to one of the following combinations:
-- First four weekends of the year, e.g. Virginia Tech and Virginia which end the year with an intra-division matchup
-- First three and the last, e.g. Wake Forest ending the year against Vanderbilt
-- First two and the last two, e.g. Clemson and Florida State which want to play two non-conference games early and two late, including a body bag game the week before the in-state rivalry game against the SEC.
This would seemingly satisfy all members.
The sticking point, as always, is Notre Dame. Until the league starts telling the Irish what five dates they have available every year -- and not the other way around -- the ACC schedule will continue to take a back seat to each program's individual non-conference scheduling obligations.