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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Pinstripe, Gator likely in ACC's future

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

The ACC's future bowl lineup is likely to include the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and a return to the Gator Bowl, a source told ESPN.com.

With the College Football Playoff beginning in 2014 and the Chick-fil-A Bowl's commitment to becoming one of the host bowls in the new playoff system, the ACC is in the process of restructuring its bowl lineup.

The source also said the ACC is likely to maintain its partnerships with the Champs Sports Bowl, the Music City Bowl and the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, but that the Belk Bowl is leaning toward an ACC-SEC matchup for the future. While nothing has been solidified, there is also a good possibility that when the Big Ten plays in the Discover Orange Bowl, the ACC will slide into the Big Ten's slot in the Capital One Bowl.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said it would be "premature" to talk specifically about future bowl partners.

"Nothing has been solidified yet," Swofford said. "We spent two days in Charlotte this week with our current bowl partners as well as potential future bowl partners, and with the increased depth and quality of our bowl lineup, I don't think there's any question that our lineup for the future will be enhanced.

"It's a little premature to be very specific at this point in time, but with those 15 schools inclusive of Notre Dame and the footprint that we now have, we're looking at it a little differently, No. 1, and the potential bowl partners are looking at us differently, as well. I mean that in a very positive way."

The Gator Bowl, based in Jacksonville, used to match the ACC against the Big East, but that partnership ended in 2009 with Florida State's win over West Virginia in what was Bobby Bowden's final game as a coach. The four-year agreement between the Big East and Big 12 to participate in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium extends through 2013.

The ACC currently has eight bowl tie-ins with the possibility of a ninth in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The conference needs to find a replacement for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which will join the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls as the hosts for the new playoff structure that will begin following the 2014 college football season.

Should an ACC team qualify for the College Football Playoff, it likely would end up in Atlanta because of the ties to the city and the bowl.

Swofford said that with the ACC expanding to 14 teams on July 1 with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, plus the eventual addition of Notre Dame into the schedule on a five-game, rotating basis, it's possible the league might increase its bowl affiliations to nine or 10.

"We're not settled on that yet," he said. "You want to try to hit the sweet spot there, in terms of having enough, but you also want to be able to fulfill the obligations there, too. I think it will be in that nine or 10 range, probably, with a 15-member league, but you have to take into account it's a new system, obviously, at the top.

"You try to factor in how many teams you'll have in an average year in those six games as part of the College Football Playoff system. Obviously we will annually have at least one because of the Orange Bowl, and there may be others. Hopefully we'll have teams in the semifinals, and there may well be another team in one of the host bowls in addition to the Orange Bowl. All of those possibilities exist and we go from there, as does every other conference."