The length of the ACC's conference football schedule – eight games or nine? – has been an on-again, off-again topic in recent years, and it's most definitely on now, with conference athletic directors deciding how to proceed.
As the veteran ACC scribe David Teel writes in the above-linked story, the ACC has to do something about its schedule given the impending arrival, in 2019, of the ACC Network. A new TV channel means there needs to be new ACC inventory to put on the channel.
The conference has already approved a 20-game conference schedule in men's basketball. That will go into effect for the 2019-20 season. Now it's time to figure out how the conference football schedule will look.
There are, Teel has reported, two options: add an extra conference game and go to a nine-game schedule. Or adopt an “eight-and-two” model, which will keep the conference schedule at eight games but force ACC members to play two non-conference games against Power 5 opponents.
A decision on what to do might not come until the league's fall meetings. After North Carolina's practice on Friday I asked Larry Fedora, the North Carolina coach, about which scheduling model he favored – a nine-game conference schedule or the eight-and-two.
“I would much rather stay at eight and two,” Fedora said. “Because right now I don't believe that when Notre Dame's in the mix with you, they count that as one of the nine (conference games). So I'm interested in doing that. I would much rather have the flexibility of being eight and two, and those being Power 5s. I'm good with that.
“Now, the question will be whether if you go eight and two, is there going to be enough inventory out there for everybody to go eight and two? And that's the tough thing. All the leagues that are going nine and one right now, they're already doing that. So it would just be whether when we jump in the mix with eight and two whether there's enough inventory.”
The Big 12 and Pac-12 have been playing a nine-game conference schedule. The Big Ten is making the move to a nine-game schedule this year. Which leaves the ACC and SEC as the only Power 5 conferences that will play eight league games this season.
A nine-game conference schedule would mean that teams in opposite divisions would play more often and, in theory, it'd create more familiarity in the ACC and increase the potential of in-conference rivalries. Staying at eight games, meanwhile, appears more desirable for those ACC schools already locked in to annual non-conference rivalry games – like the one between Florida State and Florida.
An eight-game schedule also allows for more scheduling flexibility. Would UNC, for instance, be willing to open the season against Georgia if the Tar Heels also had to play nine ACC games? Fedora didn't sound too keen on the idea.
“No, I wouldn't have wanted to do that,” he said. “And that's one of the luxuries of being eight and two, I think, is that you can go out and find great match-ups and do those things. But I do understand, there may not be enough inventory out there for everybody to be able to do it.”