Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Headlines: ACC Realignment?

Brian: Florida State's Warchant.com ($) rumors that the ACC is flirting with realigning its Coastal and Atlantic Divisions, presumably when the current ACC football schedule expires in 2015. We don't have access to Warchant, nor do I still pay for Rivals, but in College Game Balls' scouring of the internet, we believe the realignment would involve swapping Boston College and Maryland for Georgia Tech and Miami (FL). So the divisions would look like this:

ACC Atlantic
Florida State
Miami (FL)
Georgia Tech
NC State
Wake Forest

ACC Coastal
Boston College
Virginia Tech
North Carolina

First let me say that I have been calling for this for some time now and LOVE the idea. I would make a few slight modifications to the plan, however.
  1. Rename the conferences to "ACC North" and "ACC South." That will resonate with the casual fan and there won't be the arbitrary Atlantic / Coastal split that no one can really keep straight anyway.
  2. In addition to swapping out BC and Maryland for Georgia Tech and Miami (FL) to align better with the geography of the conference, I think you also have to realign the four Carolina schools to provide more balance in football to each division. I looked at ACC winning percentages from 2005 on to get a relative idea of the strength of these programs (certainly comparing apples-to-oranges given the unbalanced ACC schedule, but it starts to even out more over time). The additional move you make to the rumored proposal is to swap Wake Forest for North Carolina.
Under my proposal, the conference alignment would look like this:

ACC North
Virginia Tech (.781)
Boston College (.656)
Wake Forest (.563)
Virginia (.500)
Maryland (.469)
Duke (.031)

ACC South
Georgia Tech (.656)
Clemson (.563)
Florida State (.531)
Miami (FL) (.469)
North Carolina (.406)
NC State (.375)

The 2005- cumulative winning percentage for the ACC North and the ACC South would be exactly .500. A historical dead heat. Under the rumored proposal, the difference in winning percentage would be 0.052, with the ACC Atlantic the stronger conference at .526 and the ACC Coastal the weaker at 0.474.

What my proposal also does is move all of the ACC's cross-divisional permanent rival games within the division, which you have today and which would continue going forward but would have even more at stake given that they are division games. So BC-Virginia Tech, Clemson-Georgia Tech, Florida State-Miami (FL), Maryland-Virginia, NC State-North Carolina, and Wake Forest-Duke still happen every year.

If the ACC insists on continuing its scheduling format of 5 division games + 2 rotating games from the other side + 1 permanent rival, I would propose the following matchups:

Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech
Boston College vs. Clemson
Wake Forest vs. Florida State
Virginia vs. Miami (FL)
Maryland vs. NC State
Duke vs. North Carolina

These rivalry games preserve the great intra-divisional matchups we have under today's Atlantic-Coastal split including Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech, Boston College vs. Clemson, and Wake Forest vs. Florida State. And it also preserves the annual, non-hardwood pillow fight between Duke and North Carolina.

If, instead, the ACC wanted to adopt the Big XII scheduling model of 5 + 3 rotating, I wouldn't have a problem with that either. So, Jeff, am I missing something, or does this proposal make way too much sense to you?

Jeff: Which proposal, yours or the rumored one? The bottom line is that I don't see much difference between the two so I'll just talk about the rumored one.

When the ACC expanded, the brass wanted to see 4 games happen annually:

Florida State vs. Miami (obviously)
Clemson vs. Georgia Tech
North Carolina vs. Duke
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech

They also thought, and rightfully so given their history of national championships, that Miami and Florida State should not be in the same division so that they could potentially play for the ACC Championship with national championship implications. These assumptions and givens led to the current alignment. Since then a new rivalry has been born with Virginia Tech and Boston College and Miami and Florida State have fallen from power. Realigning the conferences would allow for the conference's four must-have annual rivalry games to be played within the divisions and therefore eliminate the need for a cross division permanent rival for each team.

Realignment makes a lot of sense because the inter division rivalry game is really a flawed system, but if 8 more seasons are played with the current divisions and rivalry games, I think fans and teams will get used to the ACC as it is, accept it, and embrace it to the point that realignment might not be necessary a decade from now.

Brian: The current divisions don't make any sense and even 10 years from now, the casual football fan still might have a problem keeping Atlantic and Coastal straight. The other BCS conferences have more meaningful divisional alignment - Big XII North and South, SEC East and West - and it is not hard for the non-Big XII or non-SEC football fan to name which teams are in which division. To me, this realignment makes a ton of sense.

Jeff: OK, so we agree it makes sense but I disagree that the casual football non-SEC fan can rattle off the teams in the East and West division.

Brian: I also don't buy the keeping Miami (FL) and Florida State separate for national championship implications argument. The Hurricanes and Seminoles still play each other every year in the rivalry game so you aren't missing out on that game every year. It also hasn't hurt the SEC having Florida and Georgia in the same division, nor has it hurt having Oklahoma and Texas in the same division.

In fact, having those teams in the same division has actually created a great deal of controversy over the past few years (Georgia bitching two years ago about how they should have played in the BCS National Championship Game, and the Oklahoma-Texas-Texas Tech three-way tie in the Big XII South this year). If anything, these controversies only draw more attention to the conference and that might be exactly what the ACC needs to give it a shot in the arm.

If 6 years from now is too far away, my advice would be to make the change sooner rather than later. The ACC can certainly go back on its original design decision and football will be better off for it in the long run.

Jeff: The ACC should go back on its original divisional decisions but you nor I know if it can or not before 6 seasons from now.

ACC officials were right given what they knew at the time by not putting Miami and Florida State in the same division but if they are considering changes, and they are, putting those two in the same division and eliminating the rivalry game is the right thing to do.

As for your Big XII argument, you are kinda forgetting Nebraska. Texas is not new to the national stage, but did not win any titles in the 1980s and 1990s while Nebraska won several. Similarly in the SEC, it's not just about Georgia and Florida. I don't think Alabama, LSU and Tennessee fans would be happy you just overlooked them. Over a long term period of time, the SEC and Big XII have balance of power between divisions even though since 2000, the Big XII South and the SEC East have been the most dominant divisions in their respective conferences. The Big XII including Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas and the SEC - LSU, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee - have multiple teams that have history of winning national championships. The ACC only had Miami (FL) and FSU that were regularly in the national championship mix before BC joined the conference in 2005.


BCMike said...

I especially like the North/South renaming. The only ones that would still be confusing is which of the Carolina schools are where...

Claver2010 said...

This has been making the rounds and it's a good topic. I think the whole idea of a "permanent" rival is a joke. Because the ACC deemed that VTech was our biggest "rival" in the coastal we have to play them every year, esp. when Wake gets to play Duke? There are six teams in each division, you play 8 in-conference games. All 5 in your division and just alternate the 3 in the other. You can also align the conference to have rivalries if you want them. Are there any rivalries that this conference couldn't live with having every other year?

Brian said...

Claver - under the rumored alignment, the only pre-existing permanent rival games you lose are the Carolina ones (NC State vs. UNC and Wake vs. Duke). As an outsider looking in, I don't think Wake vs. Duke is very important but I would imagine NC State-UNC is a pretty big deal.

So my proposal is to switch UNC and Wake to move all permanent rivalry games intra division and do away with the rival game format (5 + 2 + 1) in favor of the Big XII's system of 5 and "three on, three off." The one rather large criticism of the Big XII system is that Oklahoma no longer plays Nebraska annually, but I just don't see that glaring yearly omission using my alignment. Possible omissions I guess would be VT vs. Miami (FL) and UNC vs. Duke.