For the most part, 2020 was just bad. It was bad for a lot of reasons, both in the sports world and on a much bigger humanitarian level. Most of us are just ready to forget anything that came out of that that year.
It appears, though, the ACC wants to revive one thing about that year that actually worked: division-less football.
As the ACC will be gathering in Amelia Island this week to discuss issues pertaining to the conference, the agenda has started to get out. While for the most part the discussions will center around where the conference will move its headquarters and how on earth the league will deal with NIL, the concept of finally getting rid of divisions popped up on center stage Monday. ESPN’s Pete Thamel has the details:
Sources: Under discussion this week at ACC meetings will be the future of scheduling, including the potential to eliminate divisions as early as 2023. This was discussed last week on calls to set up the meetings.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 9, 2022
One model being discussed is each football program having three permanent opponents – but not necessarily pods of 3 -- and the other five programs rotating on and off the schedule every other year.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 9, 2022
There’s also a potential model with 2 permanent opponents and 6 teams rotating on and off, in the same manner. These models would allow every ACC team to host every other ACC team every four years. This would bring more variety to the schedule.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 9, 2022
You’ll recall that in 2020 that with restrictions in travel, the ACC decided the best way to salvage a season and put on a product was to have (almost) every game be a conference game, and the best way to facilitate that was to scrap divisions and make the schedule from there. It created a schedule full of games that had meaning, a top-two going to the conference championship game which made that game have a bigger feel, and sent two teams to the CFP. It also resulted in UNC going to the Orange Bowl thanks to this.
Overall, the concept of scraping divisions and going to some sort of model where the ACC just has teams play the same opponents every year but expands how many they play otherwise is exciting. All one has to do is look back to 2019 and realize how big of an event it was for Carolina to play Clemson in Chapel Hill, realize that it would be eight years before it could happen again, and hear both coaches lament that it’s something that should happen more often.
In reality it is silly that programs don’t see each other more often. The games that Carolina has played against Wake Forest, for example, the last three years have been extremely entertaining, and sadly the only reason they were able to play three years in a row was because they had scheduled each other as a NON CONFERENCE game. The “three” games against the same opponents can’t be a coincidence when you look at how one state, North Carolina, has four programs. One would assume that proposal would pair UNC, NC State, Duke, and Wake Forest as playing each other every year, and then with rotations, every four year class would get to see every other program in the conference in their home stadium one time.
Most importantly the idea of “Coastal Chaos” would be gone as the two teams that head to Charlotte would be the two teams with the best records in the ACC, facing a similar schedule. If anything, this would help the eventual championship game winner as they could be seen as more fully “earning” their title as opposed to lucking out and winning a down division.
Something like this usually doesn’t leak unless it’s far down the road, especially with the specifics of starting in 2023. Let’s hope that this is the case and the ACC finally can adopt this more sensible schedule for football before the meetings are over.