ACC: Whit Babcock

In the cold, dark hours after another Virginia Tech home loss, the lots around Lane Stadium sit empty, except for one lonely image: A few guys playing corn hole next to a fire they built to keep warm.

Those are the loyalists, and there are plenty of them in Blacksburg. But there also are many others wondering how much longer the Virginia Tech program can go on like this, mired in mediocrity after so many years filled with so many wins.

Frank Beamer led this program to all those wins, and he has led this program to all its recent losses. His situation presents a complex dynamic that has no easy answers. Athletic director Whit Babcock gave Beamer a contract extension before the season began as a way to give him a little more security and head off constant questions from reporters and recruits wondering about his future.

That has not stopped anybody from debating how much longer Beamer has left. He has given every indication he plans to return in 2015 despite a third straight subpar season.

[+] EnlargeMiami defense
Michael Shroyer/Getty ImagesThings have been a struggle for Virginia Tech since it won at Ohio State in Week 2, as the Hokies have dropped five of seven games.
Truthfully, nobody inside the program envisioned being 4-5 in November. Not after a win over Ohio State in Week 2. Looking back, that win may have ended up setting Virginia Tech up to fail. The Hokies lost the following week to East Carolina, and only have two wins since Sept. 6.

“We came out on fire that game, but you had a lot of young guys playing for their first time this year and to keep that momentum going, there has to be a mindset type of deal,” senior safety Detrick Bonner said. “You have to have more leadership going on both sides of the ball. You have to hold yourself accountable as a whole group.

“Just going back from that game ... we probably took the rest of the games more lightly, being that we won that game thinking we could finish the rest of the season with wins. It didn’t go that way, but we’re going to definitely try to finish strong these last few games.”

Perhaps the mindset impacted performance, but so did injuries. The Hokies have been hit hard at just about every area on the field, from running back to offensive line, to defensive front and secondary. Those injuries, combined with 18 freshmen listed on the depth chart, have had a detrimental impact. So have turnovers and penalties, generally a sign of undisciplined teams.

“What you've got to be good at is being realistic in what you got on your football team,” Beamer explained on the ACC coaches teleconference this week. “I would have hoped that Ohio State would have thought they were beaten by a good football team, not be such a low mark in their season.

“I like our football team. I like our players. I liked them after we beat Ohio State. I liked them after we had a tough loss. They work hard. They want to be successful. They do what you ask them to do. I'd just like for them to have a little more experience.”

Nine games in, they should. Still, the only game Virginia Tech had no chance to in win the fourth quarter was against Miami last month. The Hokies have dropped three straight, with a trip to No. 21 Duke next.

The last time Virginia Tech lost four games in a row in one season was in 1992. That happens to be the last time the Hokies finished with a losing record. Only Florida State has a longer streak of consecutive winning seasons.

Still, fan interest has been dwindling. Virginia Tech saw its 93-game home sellout streak end to start 2013. Though Virginia Tech announced a sellout against Miami, vast patches of seats remained empty in the upper deck.

The following day on campus, it was as if a football game never happened. But there is not much vitriol for Beamer or the football program, at least not yet. “The feeling on campus is mixed,” said freshman Willie Bruchey. “I’d like to see them do better, but we’re all here to support coach.”

Another student asked, “If we get rid of him, who do we get? Will he be better? If he’s not, we got rid of coach for what?”

Normalizing expectations seems important, but so is maximizing talent. That is why 2015 will be crucial. Of the 28 touchdowns the Hokies have scored this season, 19 are from freshmen. Plus, injured difference makers Luther Maddy, Brandon Facyson, Shai McKenzie and Trey Edmunds will be back.

Recruiting is going relatively well, too. After a tough loss to Boston College on Nov. 1, the Hokies hosted several elite recruits, who spent time playing pool with Beamer in his home.

ESPN Recruiting Nation says Virginia Tech can end up with a Top 25 class if it pulls in some critical commitments, most notably injured defensive end Josh Sweat from Chesapeake, Va. The top two uncommitted recruits from the state of Virginia are both considering the Hokies.

While there are reasons why Virginia Tech has fallen back, the trend cannot continue. Beamer knows that better than anybody.

“Any time you're not successful in this business, it’s hard,” Beamer said. “I try to keep it realistic. I try to evaluate where we should be, and how close are we to being there. Some people think we should win every game. We’d like to win every ball game, but I think you’ve got to be realistic and understand other teams don't stay the same.

“They change from year to year. We don't stay the same. We change from year to year. Play as hard as you can, be as good as you can, and hope you get your share of the wins.”

ACC mailblog

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
4:00
PM ET
Boo! Mailbag time.

Before I get to your comments, Allan in Honolulu and Wes in Atlanta pointed out a mistake I made in upset watch. Tyler Murphy did not run for 100 yards against both USC and Clemson. Thanks for keeping me accountable!


Robert Kelley in Midlothian writes: Thank you! This is the absolute best article that I have read about the Seminoles all year. I have followed the Seminoles since 1977. Last night in bed after the game, I was reflecting on the psychology of this team ... and the reaction of the media and opposing fans to it. We have become the antagonist or Darth Vader in a very unique college football season. In many ways we are Muhammad Ali. Playing rope-a-dope and looking like we are down and then coming alive to crush our opponent into submission. Almost saying, we are just toying with you. Anyway, keep up the great work! And I will say ... the ACC Atlantic with the future of Clemson and their quarterback and how Louisville played will be the new SEC West.

Andrea Adelson writes: It is pretty remarkable how different this team is compared to last year. These Seminoles thrive on adversity. They seem to welcome it, relish it and enjoy their new role as the team everybody loves to hate.


Kenneth Whitfield in Tallahassee, Florida, writes: "This Florida State team is not the 2013 Florida State team." But then, who is? Jameis Winston struggled with the worst half of his college career. His team was down 21-0 just before halftime. In this game he threw three interceptions, overthrew receivers and made questionable throws into coverage. He only had 401 yards passing.

Adelson writes: This is what Winston does best. He shakes off his mistakes and makes the big plays when it counts most. He has an intangible to succeed under pressure many players simply do not possess.


Robert Gastinger in Clarksville writes: Read your whole column this morning and not one tip of the hat from any of the FSU players toward Louisville. All about them and how courageous they are and what character they have. Their lack of humility and grace combined with their penchant for criminality is why no likes them.

Adelson writes: That is actually not true, Robert. I focused my column on how Florida State came back, so I did not have room to get in every quote from the Florida State players. Jameis Winston was highly complimentary of the Louisville defense, reiterating many times how well the group played Thursday night. Jimbo Fisher did as well. "They're a very good team," Fisher said. "They're coached well in all phases, they got very good skill players, big guys, and they've got big D-linemen. You saw that battle out there; that was a heck of a football game."


Mike D. in Hamilton, Ontario writes: Hey Andrea, I know you're not sold on Miami's D, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on David Hale's article.

Adelson writes: David is our resident stat guru -- he breaks down numbers like nobody's business. What they show is Miami's defense is better. I wholeheartedly agree there. But better does not translate into elite. Maybe that expectation is too high, given the talent on the unit right now. I think what gnaws at people is the performance against Nebraska and Georgia Tech. Just because everybody else struggles to stop those teams should not give Miami a free pass. The Georgia Tech game probably is the most maddening example, because not only was that a very important conference game, it was a contest Miami had every chance to win -- and needed to win. The offense definitely shares in the blame for its mistakes and inability to convert on third down. But the defense could not make critical stops, either. There still really isn't much of a pass rush, and that remains a concern -- especially with the quarterbacks the Hurricanes are facing in the next few games.


Geoff in Madison, Alabama, writes: Hi, Andrea. Count me as one Hokie who loves your commentary! So I wrote you last year, pointing out the slow and steady five-year (and arguably longer) decline of the Hokies under Coach (Frank) Beamer. Earlier this year, I was astonished to read a quote from coach Beamer on how he didn't think (Bryan) Stinespring was really a problem but decided to switch offensive coordinators to make the fans happy. When he finally pulls the trigger, he gets the offensive coordinator from one of the worst offenses in all of FBS football. A team whose offense propelled them to the national championship with virtually the same cast the year following his departure! A very troubling sign, to say the least. And it appears that our offense is nowhere Auburn's was before he departed. I watched the Auburn/Mississippi State game live with two of my college-aged kids and saw some great football. Watching my Hokies play Pitt and Miami after that. ... it's like watching a high school football team. Our team lacks discipline and attention to detail; its play calling is far behind the times. Additionally, our coaches constantly build up expectations for players that either turn out to be marginal, or play marginally for us and go on to be solid in the NFL. These would all seem to point to poor coaching. All this leads me to my questions: 1) Does Coach Beamer realize how badly behind this coaching staff is? 2) Our AD inexplicably gave him a vote of confidence earlier this year. Has he changed his mind? 3) How much longer will VT allow coach Beamer to run our football program into the ground before they make a switch? 4) With an AD who couldn't see Beamer's flaws last year, do we Hokies fans have any reasonable hope that our AD can identify and hire a good coach? Thanks!

Adelson writes: Wow, Geoff -- we have a lot to cover here! First, thanks for reading. Always a treat to hear from loyal readers. I know Virginia Tech fans are disappointed with where the program stands right now, but I think fans also understand how tough this situation will be to handle because of what Beamer not only means to the program, but to the university and Blacksburg community. When I was in town last week for the Miami game, I ran across fans that are truly torn about what athletic director Whit Babcock should do moving forward. They seem ready for a change, but how does that change come about when you have to say good bye to the best football coach in school history? As for your questions: 1) Scot Loeffler was not Beamer's first choice, and clearly he was not the best choice. Nobody can say this offense has gotten better in two years. Maybe Logan Thomas will get let off the hook a little bit for last season because not much has changed without him. Does he realize the staff is behind? If he does, he won't say anything publicly. But I do agree many of the mistakes we have seen, and the inability for offensive players in particular to make marked improvements, falls on the staff. 2) Babcock has not changed his mind -- yet. 3) I think Beamer will get 2015 as his final "prove it" season unless things go off the rails and the Hokies finish 4-8. 4) I think Babcock does see the flaws. But I don't necessarily think he would have had the backing of the entire alumni/fan/donor base if he had kicked Beamer to the curb a few months into the job. Babcock has taken the right approach. He knows people are looking to see how he will handle such a delicate situation. Babcock is not somebody who will make a rash decision, and has the right temperament to make sure this process is handled as delicately as possible. PS -- He did hire Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati, for whatever that's worth.
From afterthought to playoff contender over the span of four hours: My how Virginia Tech’s fortunes have changed.

Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves, but it is hard to avoid thinking about what could be if the Hokies continue to build on a 35-21 victory at Ohio State on Saturday night. Especially in this new playoff era, where teams are evaluated daily for their postseason worthiness.

The stakes have grown, but so has the conjecture. That is why we have begun to dissect potential playoff contenders with impassioned fervor each week. After its performance in Columbus, Ohio, Virginia Tech is as worthy as anybody else of being included in the discussion.

That is a huge victory in itself, considering where this program has been over the last two years. Uncharacteristic seven- and eight-win seasons drew attention to Blacksburg for a completely different reason. Many started to wonder whether Frank Beamer still had it.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Ivan Pierre Aguirre/USA TODAY SportsFrank Beamer is in his 28th season as Virginia Tech's head coach, and his new deal will keep him with the team until 2019.
Then just two weeks ago, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock raised eyebrows when he granted Beamer a contract extension. He clearly saw something outsiders did not, or would not. Beamer is still firmly in charge of this program, still capable of recruiting, still capable of coaching. Maybe more capable than ever. After all, Virginia Tech just won its first road game against a Top 8 opponent. In its entire history.

Not many have walked into Columbus and come out with a win. Even fewer unranked teams have done so. Ohio State may be diminished without Braxton Miller, but the Buckeyes still have many of the players that got them to the Discover Orange Bowl a year ago, and one of the more formidable home-field advantages in the country. Indeed, the loss to Virginia Tech was its first in a home opener since 1979.

Ignoring preseason rankings, Virginia Tech posted one of the biggest wins in the country in this young season. Oregon, USC, Texas A&M and Georgia also had wins over ranked teams. Only Oregon beat a team ranked higher at the time, though the Ducks took down Michigan State at home.

Looking ahead, the schedule lays out nearly perfectly for the Hokies. They do face a tough test this Saturday against East Carolina, a team that nearly upset them a year ago. This is your classic “trap game,” in which a team riding high off a big win comes back home to play an unranked opponent from a non-power conference.

The Pirates bring the always dangerous Shane Carden, who threw for 321 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a close loss to South Carolina last week. But the Hokies’ defense held Carden in check last year, with seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss and three interceptions. The bigger problem was the Virginia Tech offense and special teams. The Hokies only had 53 yards rushing, and missed two field goals and an extra point.

Given the way Virginia Tech has been able to get is run game going, it seems highly unlikely the Hokies will turn in a repeat performance. Still, the coaching staff must warn its players about overconfidence, as silly as that notion sounds for a team that went 8-5 a year ago.

To prove this is a different team, the Hokies need to put away East Carolina without much of a fight. Then, if the Hokies can weather the toughest part of their schedule – a three- game stretch at Pitt, at North Carolina then home to Miami in October -- they may very well have it made. Let’s not forget Virginia Tech avoids Clemson, Florida State and Louisville from the Atlantic.

Of course, that could prove to be a double-edged sword if Virginia Tech keeps on winning. Right now, there are no more AP ranked teams on the regular-season schedule. If Ohio State falls down a hole and nobody else in the Coastal distinguishes themselves, you can bet the selection committee will take a hard look at how tough the Virginia Tech schedule is in actuality.

The Hokies need North Carolina and Miami to find themselves, and Pitt to keep on winning to at least make their schedule look more challenging. Ohio State running the table in the watered-down Big Ten would be a huge plus.

There are so many what ifs to consider with the season just two weeks old. But at least for today, the ACC has another viable playoff candidate. The surprise is that it’s Virginia Tech.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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R.I.P Tony Gwynn.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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Enjoy the holiday weekend!

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 22, 2014
May 22
12:00
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ACC baseball rolls on.
Scheduling talk has consumed all of college football over the last month. But for all the chatter, there are no answers when it comes to getting scheduling right.

[+] EnlargeDan Radakovich
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark CrammerAs Clemson's AD and a member of the playoff committee, Dan Radakovich (left) will get a first-hand look at how important scheduling becomes.
Eight conference games vs. nine conference games. One power-five opponent or more? Everything remains a guessing game until the College Football Playoff era begins because nobody truly knows how the playoff committee will evaluate strength of schedule.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, one of 13 members on the committee, said plainly, "It’s going to be the totality of the schedule. Being a conference champ is one of the top priorities as is winning the games, so there’s really not just one factor that is overwhelming the others. It’s the body of work associated with the program."

In the selection committee procedures, released earlier this month, there is a brief mention about how strength of schedule will be evaluated. The committee will be given data from SportSource Analytics, which will provide stats on every FBS team, along with opponent records and opponents' opponents' records. Unlike the basketball model, which relies heavily on RPI, the committee will not use just one data point.

That means much of this is left up to interpretation. The Pac-12, for example, finished second in the ESPN Stats & Information Conference Power rankings to end the 2014 season. The Pac-12 plays nine conference games. The ACC, on the other hand, finished fifth in the same set of power rankings. The league decided to stick with eight conference games. Does this automatically mean the Pac-12 gets a built-in advantage based on playing a conference schedule that is perceived to be more difficult?

Nobody really knows until we see the committee pick four teams based on on-field results.

What we do know is three conferences have opted for nine league games. That is a big reason why the ACC will require teams to play at least one power-five opponent in nonconference per year, beginning in 2017. Notre Dame is included in that group; BYU is not.

Will that be enough?

The Pac-12 already plays a tougher conference schedule, plus most of its teams play power-five opponents. Last season, only four teams did not have at least one power-five nonconference game. Four -- including Oregon and USC -- had two.

"It’s a wait and see," Miami athletic director Blake James said. "It will take some programs not making it to the final four and having the committee or someone come out and address that it was a scheduling issue that prevented them from being there. With that said, we all have to be cognizant of the fact that our schedules are going to be evaluated and you want to be one of the four teams. The challenge there is no one knows who is going to be the dominant program three, five, 10 years out, which is how we’re doing our schedules. You can schedule an elite program right now and by the time you play them, they might not be an elite program and vice versa. It’s a real challenge and it will be interesting to see how it plays out."

You saw examples of that throughout college football last year. Oregon had Virginia and Tennessee, power-five opponents, yes, but both teams finished with losing records. Ohio State scheduled Cal when the Bears were good, not knowing they would have a 1-11 season when the teams ended up playing. Perhaps more scheduling contracts will be broken in the playoff era, as teams jockey to get current elite teams on the slate.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsACC teams get the opportunity to boost their schedules with Notre Dame.
ACC athletic directors also have the challenge of having Notre Dame on the schedule once every three years. League ADs already know when they will play Notre Dame several years down the road. So in years they play the Irish, do they add a second power-five team or take the brakes off so the schedule does not become too challenging?

"In Blacksburg, if we have Michigan and Notre Dame on the schedule, I think our fans would be fine with that," Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said.

Elite games like that are hard to find, because both parties have to be willing to play one another. That could make more scheduling challenges for everyone, especially since the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will have fewer nonconference spots open because they play more league games.

"The cost of guarantees continues to rise, too," James said. "You have three of the five conferences that are playing nine games so right away there are fewer games needed and geographically you want to try to stay within your area and schedule games that make sense for your fan base and alumni base. When you put all those things together it makes scheduling already challenging and I do think it will be more challenging in the future."

Given all the challenges and the uncertainty about strength of schedule during playoff evaluation time, ACC athletic directors left open the possibility that they could change their minds on scheduling. Like James said, it's wait-and-see.

"As we get through the first cycle of this new football playoff, I think it will be telling for us as to whether or not this decision is the right decision or whether we need to do something else," Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said. "I think we felt comfortable knowing we're not the lone conference out there, that we're comfortable being at eight."

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Up until Monday, there was a running joke whenever ACC administrators and athletic directors got together during meetings that went a little something like this: Scheduling on the agenda again? Better get used to it.

The joke can be retired now that the ACC has decided to stay at eight conference games. What ended up being the biggest surprise was not the choice to remain status quo, but how quickly the decision was made. Not only had the scheduling subject been going on for years, up until last week there was uncertainty about whether a vote would be taken here at all.

All that was solved in a matter of hours Monday.

So what changed in such short period of time? They simply could not wait any longer to take a vote, not when the other power five conferences had already made their scheduling decisions. They had gone over the scenarios enough and discussed the topic enough.

“I know we will always do what’s in the best interest of the ACC. It probably would have been harder if the other four leagues had gone to nine, but that didn’t dictate our decision,” Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said Tuesday. “But I think everybody realized, ‘Hey, we’ve talked about this for a long time, let’s go ahead and figure this out.’”

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
AP Photo/Alan DiazMiami coach Al Golden was in favor of a nine-game ACC schedule, but he'll be happy that there will be more uniformity in schedule strength going forward.
Staying at eight games ultimately won out for a variety of reasons:

  • Some schools that leaned toward nine games ultimately accepted eight because of the rule that now requires all league teams to play at least one tough nonconference opponent. Miami coach Al Golden, a proponent of nine league games, said, “As long as we’re using the same metrics -- that’s a little bit different than everybody doing their own thing. That’s all we want, uniformity within our league -- not just comparing our league to anther league, but within our league itself.”
  • Notre Dame did play a large role in staying with eight, as well. One athletic director said having the scheduling agreement with the Irish is like having 8 conference games. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville already have an SEC rival on the schedule, making the Notre Dame agreement loom much larger in their scheduling decisions.
  • Home games. Many athletic directors want seven home games per year for a number of reasons, and staying at eight league games helps in that regard. Home-field advantage is obviously huge, but so is the revenue that is generated when you get to play at home.
  • Unbalanced conference schedule. That brings us to the next point. Many athletic directors who voted to stay at eight league games did not want to play five road conference games every other year. Babcock, who spent time at Missouri when the Tigers were in the Big 12, pointed out that the fifth conference road game ended up costing both Oklahoma State and Kansas State a chance to play for the national championship. In 2011, the unbeaten Cowboys lost at Iowa State 37-31 in double overtime, setting up the LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS national title game. In 2012, unbeaten Kansas State lost at Baylor 52-24.

The wild card, of course, is how the College Football Playoff committee will view strength of schedule for conferences that play eight league games vs. conferences that play nine league games. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, who will serve on the playoff committee, said the totality of the schedule must be considered regardless of how many league games are played.

“The eight-game [schedule], plus the one out-of-conference game, works best for us right now,” he said. “Things could change down the road, four or five years from now after some experience with the College Football Playoff, but that’s where we need to be right now.”

The ACC opens its spring meetings today with critical decisions to be made about its future. And we are not just talking about scheduling.

Divisional structure, potential changes to the championship game and more discussion about a possible ACC Network are all on the table as league athletic directors, coaches and administrators gather in Amelia Island, Florida, for the next four days.

Each topic is carefully interlaced and fraught with its own complicated issues. No decision about one can be made without impacting another. Just as an example: Any new information on a possible ACC Network could end up determining whether the league stays with an eight-game or moves to a nine-game conference schedule. Then that decision could ultimately determine what the ACC does with its division and championship game format.

“It’s like dumping out a Lego set and trying to piece it all together and do it right,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said. “And it’s not as simple as red goes with red, yellow goes with yellow. It’s a little more complex. But all these things are such good, challenging things to look at. It’s exciting, the discussions are really exciting right now because there are so many creative things that can happen out of all this.”

[+] EnlargeAtlantic Coast Conference logo
Rich Barnes/CSM/AP ImagesThe Atlantic Coast Conference begins spring meetings on Monday that will last through Thursday.
As it stands today, there is no clear consensus among athletic directors on what will best position the league moving forward into the College Football Playoff era. Because of that, nobody inside the league knows whether a vote on future scheduling will even happen when the meetings conclude Thursday. Considering the ACC is the last conference to determine what its future conference schedule will be, what happens here will be watched much more closely.

While there does seem to be more movement toward a nine-game schedule among the athletic directors than there was last year, the league does not yet have a simple majority in favor of adding another conference game.

There also is very little traction for changing the division format or championship game setup -- even though the ACC petitioned the NCAA to be granted the flexibility to determine its title game participants.

In interviews ESPN.com conducted with all 14 athletic directors leading up to the meetings, none were in favor of rearranging divisions. Nine were opposed to getting rid of divisions entirely, four remain undecided and one had no preference. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, in the undecided camp, wants an answer on league scheduling before moving forward to the division and championship game discussion.

He agrees, however, with the decision to petition the NCAA to change title game legislation.

“Depending upon where the conversation goes with the eight versus nine games, I think that the lineup, whether it is 1-14, whether it’s two seven-team divisions, whether the divisions are the same as they currently are, I think will be a totally separate discussion,” Radakovich said. “But first, we have to make that other decision on the eight or nine games.”

Getting rid of divisions altogether would relieve some of the headaches that go along with the current eight-game scheduling model, which features only one rotating crossover opponent. That has drawn criticism from both coaches and athletic directors who do not want to go as long as eight years between games against conference opponents.

Without divisions, teams could rotate through a cycle that would allow student-athletes to play every conference team at least once in their careers. But it could also mean getting rid of permanent crossover rivalries like Miami-Florida State, North Carolina-NC State and Duke-Wake Forest. And it could also mean chaos when it comes to determining who will play in the championship game.

[+] EnlargeMike Bobinski
AP Photo/David TulisGeorgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski is satisfied with the current division setup in the ACC.
“You open up Pandora’s box,” Miami athletic director Blake James said. “At the end of the day you have two divisions that have shown over nine years they’re very equitable. The Atlantic has won five, the Coastal has won four. That’s the best way to determine who’s in the championship game.”

Only two athletic directors are in favor of the top two teams in the league playing in the title game, while five remain undecided on the format. If the goal of the pending NCAA legislation is ultimately for the ACC to try to get its two top teams in the championship game to improve its stature and bump up strength of schedule, there are perils that go along with that, too.

“What’s the best way to make sure we have a team in that four-team playoff?” Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “Obviously, multiple teams would be awesome, but if you really want them playing each other in that last week of the season, I’m not sure that’s the best setup for having teams advance into that playoff. It’s served us reasonably well.

“I would tell you that I’m OK with the flexibility and the possibility to rethink it in different ways, but I’m not sold sitting here today that we need to do it differently.”

Over the past several months, the ACC has sent so many scheduling and championship game models to athletic directors to study, there are literally too many to count. Newer athletic directors like Brad Bates at Boston College and Whit Babcock at Virginia Tech remain undecided about what is best not only for their programs but the ACC in general.

Therein lies some more of the complexities. How do all these athletic directors put aside self interests to vote for what is in the best interest of the league?

“You can make compelling arguments for a lot of different models,” Bates said. “Different institutions are going to look at the different models in ways that best impact each of us selfishly, but at the same time, we have to look at everything holistically and see how it best impacts the league. And I think that’s probably where the discussion rests right now.”

More discussion will follow over the next few days. But will it be enough to change minds?

“It’s not a real simple solution,” Babcock said. “That’s why there wasn’t anywhere near a unanimous thought process during our winter meetings, so it got pushed off. I’m not sure it will be any easier to solve in May than it was in January.”
Virginia Tech is well known for its Thursday night football games, a tradition that picks back up in 2014 after a one-year hiatus this past season.

Now that the Hokies have a new athletic director in place, will Thursday night games remain the norm in Blacksburg? I had a chance to ask athletic director Whit Babcock to weigh in on the possibility. Babcock cautioned he has only been officially on the job for a week, so he does not quite know the logistical demands midweek games entail.

Former athletic director Jim Weaver asked the ACC not to schedule any Thursday night games this past season as a way to thank fans who cannot travel during the week. Until this past season, Virginia Tech had hosted Thursday night home games for 11 straight seasons.

"My first response is I think Thursday night games really help the brand of Virginia Tech athletics and I would be in favor of it, but I haven’t sat down with enough people on campus to also find out that, 'Hey when we do this, here are all the issues that make it really tough.' I’ve been at a lot of schools that have done it and it really works," Babcock said. "It’s an exciting thing and national exposure."

Virginia Tech actually hosts two non-Saturday games in 2014. In addition to the Thursday night contest against Miami on Oct. 23, the Hokies host in-state rival Virginia on Black Friday. It will be just the fourth non-Saturday game in the series’ history and the first since the two schools played on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1996.

"I think it works," Babcock said. "I like playing a Friday game then on a holiday week, better than I do during the rest of the season when school is in session and you have high school football. But from an exposure standpoint, a national reach standpoint I’m in favor of that on that particular holiday weekend."

One other football-related matter, Babcock said the school is in the final stages of choosing an architect and construction company to build the already approved indoor practice facility. Ground is expected to be broken by May and the facility completed by Fall 2015. He added they still have to raise some more money to help with the costs, expected to be around $25 million. That includes renovations to the Rector Field House as well as track and softball enhancements.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
12:00
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Enjoy Super Sunday, gang.
New Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said all the right things during his introductory news conference Wednesday, most especially when it came to his expectations for coach Frank Beamer.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is under pressure after 11 losses the last two seasons.
But the questions are only just beginning. Make no mistake -- Babcock and Beamer are now inexorably linked together for better or worse. The last two seasons have been trying for both Beamer and the football program, which hasn't won the way anybody is accustomed to in Blacksburg.

Given the twin disappointments of 2012 and 2013, the pressure is on to deliver a consistent 10-game winner and ACC championship contender once again, the way Beamer did for so many seasons until this recent stretch of adversity hit.

Babcock, then, steps into a delicate situation. Will he have to make a tough decision about the direction of the football program before Beamer is ready to leave? Or will he allow Beamer to coach out the string, so to speak? If Babcock hangs around as long as he says he will, then he will ultimately be charged with finding Beamer's successor no matter when that day arrives.

Or how it arrives.

Not surprisingly, he was asked multiple questions about Beamer, his philosophy on hiring coaches and whether he felt pressure knowing that he might end up being the one to have to hire a new football coach and replace a legend.

"I've done no succession planning for Frank Beamer at this time," Babcock told reporters. "I'd like to be on the job a lot longer than that. ... Pressure? Absolutely there's pressure any time you replace a Hall of Fame, legendary coach, you'd feel pressure, too. But I hope he coaches for a long time, wins a lot of games. In many facets, he's the brand of Virginia Tech athletics. I'm much more interested in finding out what I can do to support coach Beamer than I am at this point of eventually having to replace him whenever that time may be. He's a legend, he's a Hall of Famer, and I can learn a lot from him."

The two spoke on the phone after Babcock accepted the job, and more conversations will follow once the new AD officially starts next month. The goal when he settles in on campus is to do an evaluation of the entire athletic program before deciding how to move forward as an entire department.

"I don't have any time frame for anything," Babcock said. "We will have a sense of urgency, but we're not going to change for the sake of change."

Maybe not. But whenever change does come to the football program, Babcock will be the one under the microscope.

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