- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dear Pitt and Syracuse,
We are officially ready for you.
Nothing about Round 2 of ACC expansion has been complicated, including Friday’s decision to add Pittsburgh to the Coastal Division and Syracuse to the Atlantic Division -- that is, of course, whenever those two programs are released from their Big East lockdown.
The ACC didn’t just release its future schedule model on Friday; it announced that it is now prepared and ready for the minute Pitt and Syracuse escape.
“The good thing is we’re set and ready to go whenever Pitt and Syracuse are able to join us,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “That’s between the two schools and the Big East conference at this point. We’ll just see how that plays out. … We’re ready to move ahead with that whenever the appropriate time comes.”
Their new homes in their respective divisions are already fully furnished with old and new rivals, they make sense, and they were unanimously approved by the ACC's Faculty Athletic Representatives and Athletics Directors at the annual ACC Winter Meetings.
The discussions began this past October, with the goal of reaching a decision by now. Three other top options emerged during that time: A geographic model, a schedule in which Syracuse went to the Coastal and Pitt went to the Atlantic, and one in which some of the current crossover games would have been changed. Swofford said it was a priority, though, to maintain the current rivalry games and competitive balance within the divisions.
“The best thing to do in this instance,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said, “was probably the simplest.”
For those ACC fans out there still clamoring over a North-South division: Why? What the ACC has right now is working. Proof: The Atlantic holds a slight 69-65 edge over the Coastal Division. You can’t strike much more “competitive balance” than that. Plus, this model is old-school. Pitt will play Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Miami every year. Boston College will play Syracuse annually again. And -- a key point here, guys -- you finally know which teams are in which divisions. If you don’t, you must be in the Big Ten blog by mistake.
One challenge this new schedule presents, though, specifically affects Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State. With a nine-game conference schedule, ACC teams will now only play three nonconference games instead of four. Those three programs already have to face rivals Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Scheduling the two remaining nonconference games will be an interesting balancing act.
“Whether you’re scheduling four nonconference games or three, I think you have to look for balance in that if you’re an athletic director or a coach, and see how that plays into your overall schedule,” Swofford said. “In terms of the schools that already have an out-of-conference rivalry game, and each school looks at this a little differently, probably, but certainly that game gives those particular schools a prominent game that’s very favorable to fans and television and so forth that’s built into their schedule every year. Whereas our schools that don’t have that kind of rivalry game will probably look to schedule a very competitive, attractive, out of conference game. The balance is in the other two games.”
The good thing about it, though, is that it will eliminate those yawn schedules with two FCS opponents (I’m lookin’ at you, NC State). There’s no room for that fluff anymore.
Pitt and Syracuse are moving in.
And the ACC is officially ready.
3dDavid M. Hale
4dDavid M. Hale