For Jimbo Fisher, one rivalry weekend is not enough. Florida State’s coach isn’t satisfied with just an annual end-of-the-season date with Florida.
He wants Florida State vs. Miami around the same time every year. The budding rivalry against Clemson might be worthy of its own date, too.
The third Saturday in October is a fall ritual for Alabama and Tennessee fans. Oklahoma-Texas has a set midseason date. Michigan and Michigan State have a general timeframe for their annual game, and Florida-Georgia is usually at the end of October or early November.
The ACC has its rivalry week at the end of the season when a number of conference teams play nonconference opponents, but is that enough? Should the league mimic other models?
Jared Shanker says the ACC should
This is college football, where it’s OK to prioritize tradition ahead of business.
The ACC benefits from producing its scheduling late to guarantee its best matchups get the best weekends. Yet, wouldn’t it be nice long term to make the first weekend in October a Florida State-Miami fixture? If Mark Richt returns the Hurricanes to an elite level, wouldn't it be great that at the end of every rivalry game, the losing fan base can point to a date on the calendar and declare the result will be different a year from now? Every spring pundits can point to Oct. X as a defining Saturday.
How many conference games deserve a concrete date? Not many, which is how it ought to be. If every rivalry is protected, it would undoubtedly become a scheduling nightmare. Florida State-Miami is worthy of a fixed date, as is Clemson-Florida State. Why not make other conferences schedule their big games around Clemson-Florida State?
If a fixed date proves too challenging, a little bit of leeway can certainly be applied. Rivalry X is always one of the first few weeks of October (similar to Florida-LSU), or it’s the first conference game for each team.
One potential issue is Notre Dame’s scheduling, as the Fighting Irish have their independent concerns on top of the ACC games. If the league limits which rivalries it protects, it should not make for that much of a headache.
The rivalries fit to be protected are few, so naturally it will cause some anger among fan bases when one isn’t considered significant enough from a regional or national standpoint to protect. Several of the conference’s top rivalries are already cemented for the last weekend of the regular season, which limits the pool already. So maybe Clemson-Georgia Tech gets a protected date along with Duke-North Carolina while the ACC restores some of its final-weekend conference rivalries.
A small number of rivalry games worth protecting justify establishing tradition while also easing the burden of short travel preparations for fans.
Andrea Adelson says flexibility is the key
Fisher makes great points about having set dates for ACC rivalries. Building football tradition is vitally important for a league that has made its name as a basketball brand since its inception. But building a much bigger national brand is the biggest reason why the ACC has to remain flexible with its scheduling options.
The Florida State-Clemson rivalry is relatively new compared to some of the other headliners in the league, so the ACC has to be absolutely sure it is putting this marquee matchup in the best possible national spot every single season. The September date a few seasons back was less than ideal. Both schools voiced their preference for playing later in the season. So the ACC accommodated that request last year, having the two play in early November. The game happened to fall on the same day as LSU-Alabama, so the ACC didn’t get the primetime window for its biggest matchup. This year, the schools will play one weekend earlier to avoid the heavy hitters in the SEC. Had the ACC been inflexible and determined Florida State-Clemson absolutely must play in Week 10 every year, the league would have been hurting its own ability to create exposure for its two biggest brands.
And what if the rivalry dips as a national game in the future, the way Miami-Florida State has dipped recently? The ACC would be stuck with a game on a set weekend that wouldn’t be doing much for the national brand. The ACC isn’t at a point yet where its set rivalry games drive the national conversation the way Michigan-Ohio State, Texas-Oklahoma and Alabama-Auburn do, simply because its football rivalries don’t have the same history and tradition. Building an audience for these games will only serve to enhance traditions, build history and get the ACC to the same place as the bigger national brands.
It’s a process that takes time. Jared points out the league benefits from scheduling late. That is all done on purpose, to maximize television windows for potential high-impact games. One other factor needs to be considered as well: Thursday and Friday night games, something unique to the ACC. Those are in addition to the SEC-ACC games to end the regular season and Notre Dame, as Jared points out. The ACC has so many more moving parts than other leagues, it’s nearly impossible to start blocking off weekends for a slew of rivalry games.
Flexibility has to be the biggest consideration.