How ACC scheduling decision affects UNC

UNC coach Larry Fedora said it’s “great” that the ACC is sticking with its current football scheduling model.
UNC coach Larry Fedora said it’s “great” that the ACC is sticking with its current football scheduling model. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The ACC’s 14 athletic directors on Wednesday decided to stick with the status quo and keep on keeping on. In other words, they decided to keep on playing an eight-game league schedule in football, with a non-conference game against a Power 5 conference opponent.

That’s exactly what the league has been doing, and the athletic directors’ vote put an end to months of speculation about how the conference football schedule might change with the arrival of the ESPN-backed ACC Network in 2019.

Clearly, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora was in favor of sticking with the current scheduling model. He said so last month when asked about it, and he said so again on Wednesday after he learned of the ACC’s decision to keep the schedule as is.

“That’s great,” he said after he learned of the athletic director’s vote. “I think it’s working for our league. I think our league has grown. If you look at just in the last five years what this league’s accomplished – so I think what we’re doing with our scheduling is pretty good.

“I think it’s growing. I think when you compare what we’re doing to a lot of the leagues, we’re doing some good things. So I feel comfortable with where we are. The only thing I worry about is having enough teams to play.”

That shouldn’t be a problem given that the ACC will continue to require teams to play one non-conference game against a Power 5 opponent, and not two, as had been proposed. What’s interesting about Fedora’s comments, though, is that UNC as an institution reportedly favored a nine-game model.

Veteran ACC scribe David Teel reported that several times. Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, declined to share how he voted on Wednesday. A nine-game ACC schedule would have benefited the Tar Heels in some ways.

For one, it would have created more marquee games within the conference – like the one UNC just played on Saturday at Florida State. The Tar Heels play against Florida State and Clemson twice every 12 years. Same for Louisville and every other Atlantic Division opponent outside of cross-divisional rival N.C. State.

And so if Cunningham had voted in favor of a nine-game scheduling model, it would have been understandable: more high-profile conference games could help raise the Tar Heels’ profile. Cunningham on Wednesday

said he agreed with Fedora on the overall philosophy of building a program.

“Larry and I have been absolutely on the same page with how we’re trying to build the program, and keeping the same scheduling format is really to our advantage,” Cunningham said. “So it’s good for the league. I think it says that our league is in the right direction and it should be good for the network, as well.”

Staying at eight gives UNC some advantages, too: namely the freedom to be aggressive about scheduling high-profile non-conference games, like the one the Tar Heels played at the start of the season against Georgia. Fedora said last month that he wouldn’t be in favor of playing that kind of game if UNC also had to play nine ACC games.

Now it’s a moot point. Fedora, and many others who saw no reason to change the league’s football schedule, are happier after Wednesday.