- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC’s decision to stick with an eight-game conference schedule for the foreseeable future was the result of one main factor: Notre Dame.
Considering the new agreement in which Notre Dame will play five ACC opponents annually beginning in 2014, the majority of league athletic directors believed it would best serve the conference if there were more flexibility in scheduling. A nine-game league schedule, which the ACC planned to adopt in 2013 with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, would have left little to no wiggle room, especially for Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State, which have built-in SEC rivalries.
This move wasn’t catering only to Florida State and Clemson, though. It was approved by a close 8-6 vote of league athletic directors, including Pittsburgh and Syracuse, according to a source who voted at the fall meeting in Boston.
While this change will likely benefit Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech the most, it certainly isn’t going to hurt the rest of the ACC. It will, however, force everyone to scramble to fill a Saturday in 2013. The good news is it’s still only October, and filling the open date with a home-and-home agreement should still be an option for a lot of programs. The bad news is we’re probably going to have to watch more FCS games than we’d like to next season. It’s not nearly as disastrous of a scenario though as in February, with FSU scrambling to replace West Virginia. There is no need to panic, there just might be a few more snoozers next season.
Overall, though, this shouldn’t affect the ACC’s strength of schedule moving forward in the new playoff system. The ACC has had one of the country’s best lineups, and with Notre Dame added to the mix, it will have a guaranteed opponent no other conference in the country will have. The eight-game schedule is likely what the Big Ten and SEC will stick with, too, so it’s not like the league has taken a step down. Instead, it’s remaining the same while adding Pitt and Cuse to the mix. ACC teams will play their six divisional opponents and two cross-divisional teams. This will also allow ACC schools to have the same number of home games, so it will be a fair lineup across the board.
Wednesday’s news shouldn’t come as a surprise. The majority of league coaches have voiced their support for an eight-game league schedule next seasonr, and ACC commissioner John Swofford said it was up to the athletic directors if they wanted to stick with it.
This news will make the ACC coaches happy, and it should certainly make Florida State fans happy knowing the Noles won’t have to get through nine ACC teams, Notre Dame and Florida in any given year in order to have a shot at the national title. They’ve got NC State in Raleigh on Saturday, and even that is hard enough.