The ACC announced today exactly how Pittsburgh and Syracuse are going to fit into the little club we've got over here, and it's killing the college basketball we all love just a little more.
Bt first let's discuss football, as that's the impetus for this entire thing, and it's the sport handling expansion a little better. Pittsburgh will join the Coastal Division, and Syracuse the Atlantic. The conference schedule will extend to nine games, with each team keeping their one game against their cross-division rival and two other games in the opposite definition. No one's rival will change; Syracuse and Pitt will be paired with one another. The face that there will be a uneven number of home and away conference games is apparently going to be balanced by having every team in the division either have the extra home or road game. So despite seeing teams like Clemson only twice every six years instead of four as it currently stands, not much will change.
Basketball is a little rougher. The schedule expands to eighteen games, as previously announced. But each team is reduced to one guaranteed home-and-home opponent; for UNC, that means the end of the guaranteed two games with N.C. State. (The other pairings are Boston College and Syracuse; Clemson and Georgia Tech; Duke and North Carolina; Florida State and Miami; Maryland and Pitt; NC State and Wake Forest; Virginia and Virginia Tech. Maryland gets the worst of it, losing rivalry games with both Duke and Virginia.) Instead, the current system of three additional home-and-home opponents, and three each just home and just away is replaced with four, four, and four, respectively.
This is a bit of a letdown, really. I long ago gave up my dreams of a true equal, home-and-home schedule, but the ACC is taking away games fans have a real passion for, like UNC-State and Maryland-Duke and replacing them with what? A lot of mediocre games that aren't of interest to anyone. There's already more ACC games per evening than ESPN and the local affiliates can handle, pushing more and more games to ESPN3 and ESPNU. And with the ACC in a slump over the past five years, there's less and less reason to tune into the less entertaining games.
We've already lost a lot of what made the ACC special. Now we're trading the sort of games that draw fans in, that guarantee folks in the seats and eyes on the television, with ones no one has any emotional attachment to. I'd never miss a Carolina-State game, but it takes a little more effort to clear my schedule when the Heels play Boston College. Things are going the same route as in football, with officials abandoning the games everyone loves and just throwing out any pairings and assuming the fans will show up. Well I've seen a lot of empty seats this season, and I'm not as confident as others that they'll be coming back.
But hey. I'm sure the five home-and-home's we will have will all be thrilling. And who really cares about those long-standing rivalries with Clemson, Virginia and State. No one gets into college sports for things like that, right? Who needs history when there's... whatever's left?