ACC to mull adding 2 games

Officials ponder 18-game schedule

Staff WriterMay 9, 2009 

ACC men's basketball coaches and administrators will discuss the idea of an 18-game Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next week at the league's annual spring meetings on Amelia Island in Florida.

In a telephone interview this week, ACC commissioner John Swofford said he's comfortable with the current 16-game conference format. He said that even if the ACC approves an increase to 18 games, it wouldn't take effect until the 2011-12 season -- after the league's current TV deals expire.

"It's serving our league well," Swofford said of the current format. "Our coaches are very comfortable with it. There are pros and cons either way. From a pure business decision, there are some reasons to look at 18, but then you could lose some very attractive intersectional games that are of superb value to the television packages."

The ACC meetings start Monday and will conclude Wednesday.

The idea of playing 18 conference games has been unpopular with the ACC's coaches. They have said more ACC games would strengthen schedules that already are difficult.

Because of that, they have cautioned that adding two extra conference games might cause them to drop some marquee nonconference series with quality opponents.

"In the past, the coaches haven't been in favor of it," N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler said of the 18-game format.

Fowler predicted that the matter will be discussed next week without coming to a vote, not with the possibility of changing to an 18-game schedule still three seasons away.

Swofford said the jury still is out on whether an 18-game schedule helps conferences get more teams into the NCAA Tournament field. Statistical analyst Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com said an 18-game conference schedule doesn't help teams raise their RPI, which is a tool the Division I men's basketball committee considers in selecting the tournament field.

The RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, is a mathematical formula that ranks teams based on a combination of winning percentage and strength of schedule. Palm said the increased schedule strength created by adding conference games is more than offset by an accompanying decrease in winning percentage.

"The general effect (of an 18-game conference schedule) in terms of the RPI is going to be negative," Palm said.

Teams in the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 currently play 18-game conference schedules. The principal argument in favor of an 18-game format is adding games that are more attractive to fans and television executives, who might pay more money for a stronger product.

But if ACC teams add two conference games and drop their marquee nonconference games, there wouldn't be much value added for fans or television.

"I think an 18-game schedule is a plus," said Ken Haines, president and CEO of current ACC TV rights holder Raycom Sports. "It would make our scheduling a little easier as long as it wasn't at the expense of high-profile nonconference games. It remains to be seen whether it would make it more valuable."

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or Ken Tysiac: 919-829-8942

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