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Monday, May 12, 2008
ACC considers adding ninth conference game, dropping noncon game

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- ACC football coaches and athletic directors are weighing the possibility of adding a ninth conference game to the schedule and dropping one of the four nonconference opponents -- an agenda topic the majority of coaches were opposed to at this week's spring meetings but will resume discussing Tuesday morning.

The only other BCS conference that currently plays a nine-game schedule is the Pac-10. The move would ensure half the ACC teams would have a loss -- an instant roadblock to reaching a BCS bowl -- but would ease athletic directors' budgets because of rising costs to buy Division I-AA and mid-major opponents.

"My personal thoughts are I'm against it," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden after Monday's five-hour, closed-door meeting at the Ritz-Carlton. "I think it makes your scheduling tougher and it might keep you from being more competitive on a national scale. Your main objective is to get to the national championship game or to get into the BCS games, and by playing nine games it just makes it one more road game trying to get to the top.

"I can't think of a single reason that a football coach would want it. … The difference between getting into a BCS bowl game and a lesser bowl game, it's not worth it," Bowden said.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver wasn't as convinced. Weaver pointed out that the price tags for scheduling MAC teams has increased drastically, and larger-stadium schools like Ohio State have an easier time paying for them. While nine conference games would force teams to play five road games, it would also bring in additional home-game revenue every other year.

"I personally have mixed emotions," Weaver said. "On the one hand, I think having nine conference games will be more interesting to our fans. By the same token, when you play four at home one year and five on the road, there's an inequity. I think that has to be balanced. I think it's a really good topic of conversation for the athletic directors to have in conjunction with the football coaches and to see how they feel about it, but I think there are definitely pros and cons."

The odds of it actually happening before the end of the league's current TV contract, which expires after the 2010-11 season, seem unlikely. "It was a pretty strong sentiment by the coaches that they feel like nine games was not what we wanted to do," said North Carolina coach Butch Davis. " … If you truly try to schedule some national games -- like Carolina just finished playing Notre Dame and Notre Dame is coming to us -- on the years you play really good opponents, people are under the assumption you buy games in, but a lot of times you're playing teams you have to return those games. By accident, you could end up playing seven games on the road and five at home. You could have a really good team and get decimated by having to go on the road so much."

ACC commissioner John Swofford said it may or may not even reach the point of a vote on Wednesday and that nonconference schedules and TV contracts that are currently in place need to be honored.

"There are pros and cons either way," Swofford said, "and both our coaches and athletic directors will weigh in on it. If anything definitive is done in the future, it will be [voted] on Wednesday morning."

Heather Dinich is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at espn.hd@hotmail.com.