Saturday, February 4, 2012

ACC Commissioner John Swofford discusses new scheduling formats

The ACC announced on Friday new scheduling formats that will take effect when Pittsburgh and Syracuse begin league play, officially making the ACC a 14-team conference. Among the changes:

-A nine-game conference schedule in football.

-And an 18-game conference schedule in basketball, in which each of the 14 teams will play twice a year against one permanent partner. Games between permanent partners are only ones that will be guaranteed to happen twice per season. Given that North Carolina’s permanent partner is Duke, that means that in two out of every three seasons North Carolina and N.C. State will play just once during the regular season.

It’s the announcement of the changes to the basketball schedule that has created quite an uproar among ACC traditionalists. After all, UNC and N.C. State have played one another twice during the regular season in every year since 1920. And now, in most seasons, the Tar Heels and Wolfpack will meet but once per season.

John Swofford, ACC Commissioner, spoke on Friday with The Charlotte Observer about several issues related to the announcement of the new scheduling formats. Here’s the Q-and-A:

Q: Given the announcement of these new scheduling formats, is there a clearer idea now about when Pitt and Syracuse will officially begin play in the ACC?

John Swofford: Well not in terms of a certain point. You know, I think what [with] the decisions that have been made, the good point is that the competition decisions are now complete with the input of Pitt and Syracuse and we know how we will schedule. We know the championship formats, generally, going forward. We’ve got a little work to do with a few of those. But we know how we will compete, how we will schedule. And therefore, when the appropriate time comes for Pitt and Syracuse to join us, we’re ready to go with that. So we’ll be able to move quickly when we know a date certain on that.

Q: In regards to basketball, the first thing that caught a lot of people’s attention is that UNC and N.C. State will no longer be guaranteed to play twice a season. What is your reaction to the criticism the league has received?

JS: With a 14-team league, what our athletic directors and coaches wanted first and foremost was an equitable schedule. And a schedule in which people saw and played each other as much as possible, given some parameters that you have some limitation of the number of conference games you can or should play. But the commitment by the schools was to as equitable a schedule as possible, from a competitive standpoint. Which you can’t totally have unless you’re playing a full round-robin. But you want to get as close to that as possible.

As it turned out, in the discussions there, there was a strong feeling, pretty much across the board, that the one partner approach was the best way to accomplish the most equitable schedule and accomplish the commitment to playing each other as much as possible year in and year out. And I think any traditionalist would like to see certain games guaranteed to be played twice a year, but you have to look at this as the schools did – as a full conference and as a 14-member playing conference. And sometimes as you do that, and as our schools, athletic directors and coaches did that, it’s a little difficult to pick out certain games and set them aside outside of a reasonable and fair and equitable scheduling format.

So you gain an awful lot of good things and I think without question fans throughout the footprint will enjoy seeing Pitt and Syracuse, which have been two of the most successful programs in the country. Pitt’s the winningest program in the Big East over the last decade and obviously Syracuse’s tradition and history is evident, as well as their current success. And those games that will be created with those partners throughout the footprint will be very, very appealing. But you lose certain things and you can a lot of other things. You know, the State-Carolina rivalry is a special one and has been for a long time and that without question will continue to be.

Q: Is there any chance the permanent partners could be readjusted going forward?

JS: We really haven’t discussed it in that light. I don’t know that anything is absolutely in concrete, but I don’t think the schools are going into this with the intention of altering those down the road.

Q: One of the concerns with a nine-game football schedule is that it creates imbalance with some teams playing five home games, others only four. How much discussion was there about that particular problem point that comes with a nine-game schedule?

JS: Well it complicates life a little bit for [athletic directors] in terms of their scheduling. One of the things that was requested, and it appears that we can do is to do that by divisions. So that all the teams in each division are playing the same number of home and away games in any particular year. From a fairness standpoint, at least that’s the way we intend to start out in our scheduling. That can be certainly addressed. Some of us have been in situations before where you have an unequal number of conference games. And you just have to work a little more diligently in balancing your home and away schedules during those years and how you schedule your non-conference games.

Q: So that will be the case – that each team in each division will have the same number of home and away games?

JS: Well that’s the intention. So that at least starting out, so that one year the Atlantic Division teams would have maybe five home games and four away and then the next year, it would reverse and the Coastal would have the same number. That would make it the most equitable in terms of determining divisional champions.

Q: In regards to the ACC basketball tournament, each of the 14 teams will compete in that but a format has yet to be set there. What’s the timetable to decide the conference tournament format?

JS: Well our focus on this point, our intention at this point is to probably make that determination at our spring meeting in May. We’ve got a subcommittee which is charged with coming up with the best formats for consideration by the athletic directors for the tournament. And they’ve already begun their work and should have something  ready for presentation to the full group in May. But the one aspect of it that has been determined is a strong feeling throughout the league that all 14 schools should be a part of the tournament, and that now we’ve just got to try and figure out for the fans and for the players the best possible format for a 14-team tournament and what would work most effectively.

--Andrew Carter


Anonymous said...

Just one of the myriad of reasons I have given up watching ACC basketball. Keep watering down a great product, soon there won't be anything left.

Cliff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cliff said...

At the new size, it would have been more effective to have two divisions, the original ACC and the newcomers. The original would of course consist of MD, VA, UNC, State, Duke, Clemson and Wake. The other division would be Miami, Va Tech, BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Ga. Tech and FSU. All schools within a division would play each other in football with two or three games against teams outside the division on a rotating basis. The conference champion would be determined in a championship game. In basketball, all teams within a division would play each other twice in the regular season with one game against each of the teams in the other division on a rotating annual home and home basis. For the ACC basketball tourney, the teams would be seeded based on their overall conference records in one group. The top four seeds get a bye. The next 8 play in on the first day and the bottom two do not participate on the tournament and their boosters can either use the tickets or there is a public sale of those tickets. This way we go back to respecting the basketball rivalries that made the ACC great while at the same time respecting some of the old Big East rivalries and the football history of he other programs. True that the newer teams' division might dominate in football, but so be it.

Anonymous said...

The move to these 'Mega'conferences is going to really have a disastrous effect on College Sports.

The ACC was a wonderful conference with great rivalries and with great fans. and then it decided to get rich by adding teams and having Football championships and bigger basketball tournaments that they could sell more tickets to and that they could get more TV money for... and it's lost it's soul.

And don't kid yourselves, there'll be two more teams added soon cause 16 is even better than 14.

I like the idea Cliff had... it would perpetuate the rivalries from the REAL ACC and still allow the megalomaniacs running this thing to add teams and make money. I will always root for my school, but I'm rapidly losing my interest in being an ACC fan... greed is not attractive.

Or how about this... UNC, Duke, Syracuse and the best of the rest can be one division in B-Ball and everyone else can be the other division, and in Football, it can be FSU, VaTech, Miami, and the best of the rest as one division and everyone else in the other.

Recruiting at many of the 'other' schools is really going to suffer with a large and lopsided ACC...

And no, the ACC isn't the only offending conference, but it's the one I care about...

{getting more jaded all the time... }