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ACC teams find 'nonconference' fix

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Some Atlantic Coast Conference schools are considering scheduling future nonconference games against -- ironically -- other ACC schools, league athletic directors and coaches told ESPN.com.

On Monday, the ACC announced it would remain at an eight-game conference schedule. Beginning in 2017, league teams also will be required to play at least one nonconference opponent from a power five league.

Because of the eight-game league schedule, non-primary crossover rivals in the Atlantic and Coastal divisions may wind up playing each other only once in an 11-year span. This prompted discussion at the spring meetings about scheduling fellow ACC teams as nonconference opponents in future seasons. Some possible future ACC "nonconference" games could pit Miami against Syracuse, Duke against NC State, and Clemson against Virginia.

"Everything's on the table," Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said.

"I think all the coaches felt like playing each other more, [that] if there was a model for that, we'd be open to it," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "They are going to allow us to use that plus-one game in the conference as a nonconference game, so that will be interesting to see where it goes. When we don't have to play Notre Dame, playing Duke or Virginia or somebody from the Coastal that we don't play will be a discussion we want to have."

NC State and Duke are located about 35 miles apart. They played annually from 1924 to 2003 but have met only three times since the ACC expanded in 2004. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils are scheduled to play only once (in 2020) in the next 11 years.

"I think the eight-game schedule does give us some unique flexibility for scheduling out of conference," Doeren said. "Right now there are teams in our league we won't face for seven years that are a bus ride from our campus.

"It just makes sense for us, in years that we're not playing Notre Dame, to consider scheduling one of those teams as a nonconference game. It would be great from the perspective of student-athlete experience and welfare, minimizing travel, and to have games in closer geographic proximity for our fans."

As members of the Big East, Miami and Syracuse played 12 consecutive seasons from 1992 to 2003. They haven't played since and, being in different ACC divisions, are scheduled to play only twice (2017 and 2024) in the next 11 years.

Miami athletic director Blake James, a proponent of a nine-game league schedule, said scheduling conference teams in nonconference slots is not ideal. But circumstances may end up dictating whether that happens.

"It's going to be more challenging to find nonconference games," James said. "A conference like the SEC doesn't want to play us. Florida has Florida State, so we're not going to have an opportunity to play them."

In November, Gross emailed other league athletic directors with concerns about the league's future conference schedules, specifically that they minimized the opportunities for some schools to play in major media markets, The Associated Press reported.

For instance, Syracuse could be attracted to playing in Miami's rich recruiting area, while the Hurricanes may welcome the increased media attention of playing in the Northeast.

"The most difficult thing in this league, it seems like on this topic, is how often our young people can play teams from the other division," new Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said. "And if you're not playing for 8-10 years, that's a little tough. But it's a darn strong 15-team league. That's one of the things you get with it."

Playing another league opponent in a nonconference game is allowable under ACC by-laws. Any decision regarding nonconference games between ACC schools would be up to the individual institutions, ACC commissioner John Swofford said.

Any nonconference games between ACC schools also would satisfy the league's requirement of playing at least one nonconference team from a power five league starting in 2017.

"If it does happen in the future, I think it will be minimal," Swofford said.

Other sports, such as baseball, already play nonconference games against conference opponents.

ACC football teams will play Notre Dame once every three seasons, meaning they can pursue such "nonconference" games in each of the other two seasons.

"That's something that was discussed," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said. "But whether it becomes a reality? I don't know."