Coaches support staying at 8 league games

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Though league scheduling was not a major topic on the spring meetings agenda, ACC coaches unanimously support an eight-game conference slate.

And they told the athletic directors as much.

The ACC scaled back from a nine-game league slate to an eight-game league slate last October after Notre Dame entered into a football scheduling partnership with the schools as part of their membership in all other sports. Notre Dame essentially takes up one nonconference spot every three years. For those teams with long-standing rivalry games like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech, playing nine league games, plus Notre Dame, plus a rivalry game is untenable.

"When you’re a school like us, when you’re playing Notre Dame, South Carolina plus nine conference games, it limits you in what you can do in our out of conference scheduling," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We like the flexibility that comes with being able to do a Clemson-Georgia. We’re all comfortable with eight."

And if the SEC goes to nine league games? Would the philosophy change then?

"They don’t have Notre Dame," he said. "If they had a lock-in with Michigan for five games then it might be a little different. Everybody has to pave their own way. That’s the consensus of the ACC coaches. A lot of us already have really quality nonconference opponents, plus you’re adding Notre Dame in there. If we were playing Notre Dame this year and you’ve got eight conference games, Notre Dame, Georgia and South Carolina, nobody in the SEC is playing a schedule like that."

Given the strength of schedule that is going to be a component in the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten decided to move to nine league games. But there is a delicate balancing act that schools must follow.

"You can overschedule, too," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "If your schedule’s too tough it may give you two or three losses. You may be a heck of a team but you’re not getting in at the end if you have 2 or 3 losses. There’s a balance. You want to have strength of schedule, but you don’t want your schedule so strong that throughout the course of 12 games you’re not going to win but eight or 9."

Though Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski is not in favor of a nine-game league schedule, he wants to hear more about the possibilities. And not every single AD is in favor of eight league games. Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, for one, remains in favor of a nine-game league schedule.

Athletic directors are the ones with a final say, not the coaches. But it doesn't seem like there will be any movement for now.

"I wouldn't necessarily be in favor of the nine-game model although I’d like to hear more conversation about it, and there are several of us in that room with the same dynamic as us," he said. "We haven’t gotten together as a group and talked through that yet."