According to CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler, maintaining an eight-game league football schedule has significant support heading into this week's spring meetings in Amelia Island, Florida.
"Momentum seems to be going that way but a discussion and vote is a few days away," UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Sunday night via text.
Added a separate athletic director who has supported a nine-game model: "I think it's leaning toward an eight-game model. That's what it feels like."
The ACC is the last of the Big 5 conferences to make a decision on its future football scheduling. Initially, ACC athletic directors voted to move to a nine-game model, but backed out after adding Notre Dame as a partial league member.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 currently play a nine-game conference schedule, while the Big Ten will move to nine games beginning in 2016. The SEC is the only major conference currently set on eight games, but the league did introduce a new strength of schedule component that guarantees at least one non-conference game a year against a program from another power conference (which most power conference schools do today anyway so w/e).
I've long been a proponent of the ACC moving back to a nine-game football schedule, if for no other reason than the infrequency in which Boston College ends up playing non-Virginia Tech Coastal Division teams. That issue is compounded with the recent additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh which swells the ranks of football-playing members to 14. Under today's current divisional setup, BC will face a school like Miami or Pittsburgh just twice over a 12 year period. When programs face non-conference member Notre Dame twice as frequently as non-crossover teams from the other division, something just doesn't feel right.
Recently, I've been pro nine-games if for no other reason than three of the other four Big 5 conferences -- the Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 -- are at or moving to nine games. The one league that is sticking with eight games, the SEC, represents the poorest fit for Boston College when it comes to inking non-conference series. Plus, with Notre Dame tied up with their ACC scheduling deal and Big 5 teams wanting to maintain a seven-game home schedule, inter-conference home-and-homes are going to become harder and harder to come by. Scheduling in a majority nine-game conference schedule world becomes a huge headache based on simply supply and demand.
Where an eight game, ACC football schedule becomes much more tolerable is if the ACC and Big 12 are successful in passing conference title game deregulation. That is looking more and more likely, as the proposal is seen as "non-controversial" according to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd. Should the NCAA deregulate how conferences determine its champion, this would allow the ACC to scrap divisions altogether and pair the top two teams in the conference in the conference championship game.
If the NCAA allows it, the ACC could scrap the current division setup and move to a scheduling model similar to basketball in which you have a number of protected games (say, three) and rotate the rest (let's go with five). Then play the conference championship game against the top two teams in the conference standings. That's a really nice, clean symmetrical model for a 14-team, eight-game conference; one that sees teams play three fixed games, switching back and forth between one group of five and the other each year.
Boston College has played 29 games all-time against both Pittsburgh and Miami, yet they'll visit Chestnut Hill less than once a decade under the current scheduling model. With a 3+5 scheduling model without divisions, both programs would visit the Heights once every four years (and more frequently than non-conference member Notre Dame). I'm not exactly sure which three programs BC would be paired with, but Syracuse and Pittsburgh seem like sure things. Miami or Louisville as the third?
The issue here will be in the timing. The ACC is set to vote on a scheduling model for football as part of the spring meetings this week, with the NCAA addressing conference championship game deregulation still a ways off. But if the league sticks with eight games, the next step could be eliminating the divisions entirely and moving to a more sensible scheduling models that increases the frequency of inter-division matchups.