It is about time ACC teams got creative with their schedules.
Because it is an absolute crying shame that two of the oldest rivals in the league are forced to go years between games. So, North Carolina and Wake Forest took matters into their own hands Monday, when the two announced they had scheduled a home-and-home NONconference series.
Does it sound bizarre? Yes. But it is no more bizarre than the schools playing just four times since 2004. We are talking about the two schools that played the first college football game in the state of North Carolina in 1888, that have met 105 times -- the third-oldest rivalry in the ACC.
Their annual meetings ended when the ACC expanded to 12 teams and added divisions in 2005. North Carolina was placed in the Coastal; Wake Forest in the Atlantic. They were each given another cross-over rival to play annually: North Carolina gets NC State; Wake Forest gets Duke. The remaining cross-over game rotates, relegating Wake Forest-North Carolina into the nearly irrelevant category.
Expansion to 14 teams in 2013 meant the two would face each other even more infrequently. After their ACC game in 2015, the two are not scheduled to face each other again until in ACC play until 2022. Seven years between meetings is a little much, wouldn't you say?
Now, this is not a problem unique to North Carolina and Wake Forest. NC State and Duke face a similar dilemma, separated by a bus ride but unable to play on an annual basis. Many more appealing league games also happen much too infrequently: Florida State-Georgia Tech; Clemson-Virginia Tech; Florida State-Virginia Tech; Syracuse-Miami just to name four examples that have some historical context.
Folks inside the ACC realize it is not ideal to have entire senior classes go without playing every ACC team. In an attempt to change that, athletic directors tried to move to nine conference games last year, an idea that was approved in 2012 before being changed back thanks to a scheduling partnership with Notre Dame.
But the vote was defeated 8-6. So absent a ninth conference game, ACC athletic directors began seriously exploring the idea of playing each other in “nonconference” games. During spring meetings last year, several athletic directors came out in favor of the idea. Not only would it allow them to play an ACC member more frequently, it also would add another Power 5 opponent to the schedule.
North Carolina and Wake Forest just so happen to be the first Power 5 teams to make good on the concept. Their nonconference games in 2019 and 2021 will not count in the ACC standings.
What is so wrong with that? Rather than go out and spend money on a guarantee game, Wake Forest and North Carolina can play each other in a regional matchup that requires a fleet of buses as opposed to airplane travel to say, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
It satisfies the requirement that they have at least one Power 5 nonconference opponent on the schedule moving forward. And it does not necessarily preclude them from playing multiple Power 5 opponents in a given year. In 2021, North Carolina plays Wake Forest and Notre Dame in nonconference games.
North Carolina and Wake Forest made a bold choice. They opted not to be held hostage by the way the ACC schedule is made. That is their reality, and it is one that is not going to change in the foreseeable future.
In an ideal world, the ACC should drop divisions entirely, that way everybody would have a chance to play at least once in a four-year cycle. Have each team keep its designated rival, and then go through the rest of the teams round robin. Before that can happen, the NCAA must rule whether it will allow conference championship games to be deregulated.
Currently 12 teams and two divisions are required to hold a championship game. The ACC and Big 12 have petitioned the NCAA to change that rule, and expect an answer in the spring. While commissioner John Swofford has repeatedly told reporters not to read anything into the ACC wanting conference championship game rules changed, it would pave the way to eliminate divisions somewhere down the road.
And that would lead to fewer scheduling headaches.