Take 2: Should ACC realign divisions?

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
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ACC divisional realignment has become a hot topic again, with expansion and the recent rotating crossover schedule announcement leading some to wonder whether the league has any plans to change.

The answer is no.

What do Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson think? So glad you ask.

Heather says: The divisions are fine the way they are

Talking about division realignment in the ACC is like the years of discussions that once engulfed what will formerly be known as the BCS -- everyone seems to have a problem with it, many try to come up with a solution, but nobody with the power to change it is in any mood to do so.

[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney
Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports Finding a division alignment that satisfies Clemson and every other ACC school is a difficult task.
That’s not to say realignment will never happen in the ACC, but for all of those clamoring for change and better matchups, competitive balance is at the heart of the ACC’s unwillingness to budge on the matter -- and it should be.

Atlantic Division teams are 75-69 against the Coastal Division in eight regular seasons, and 4-4 in ACC championship games. It’s the very definition of competitive equity, and it’s exactly what the league athletic directors and officials were aiming for when the conference first split into two divisions. At the time, it was strategically designed to get the best matchups (Florida State vs. Miami) and avoid lopsided results (SEC West). Nobody can argue it hasn’t worked to this point.

The same can’t be said in the mighty SEC, where the SEC West has claimed eight of the past 12 SEC titles. The SEC West has a winning percentage of .536 (199-172-3) against the SEC East, with only Arkansas and Ole Miss below .500 against their East opponents since 1992. If it weren’t for Florida and Georgia, the SEC East would have been blanked.

In the ACC, the question is obviously whether the formula will continue to work with 14 teams and what appears to be a top-heavy Atlantic Division, with Louisville joining in 2014. The only way to find out, though, is to have a little patience.

The outcries about the fact that Clemson and Virginia Tech will only face each other twice every 12 years are valid. It’s understandable and a legitimate argument, but it’s also one of the sacrifices that comes with having a 14-team league. If you look at a true North-South geographic realignment, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and NC State could all wind up in the same South Division, and that could be overload. If you have Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Pitt in the same league, you’ve got the stigma of the old Big East, and there are probably a few athletic directors out there who aren’t in favor of that label.

The bottom line is this: ACC officials have done the same thing you have. They have rearranged the conference on paper. They have looked at it every which way. They have done their research, looked at winning percentages of schools, factored in the math, and in the end realized it was a fruitless exercise.

At the end of the day, competitive fairness always wins -- at least in the ACC.

Andrea says: Change ‘em up!

Take a gander across the college football landscape. How many conferences look just the way they did in 2005?

That would be zero.

So why is the ACC being so stubborn about divisional realignment? What worked in 2005, when the league split into two divisions, simply does not work in 2013 and beyond.

For proof, I give you the wacky rotating crossover opponents schedule, featuring one meeting between Duke and NC State between 2014 and 2024. That is just for starters.

Florida State opens at Pitt. The teams meet again in 2020.

Virginia Tech and Louisville meet for the first time in 2020.

Georgia Tech next visits Tallahassee in 2022.

You get the idea.

I understand the league was in a tough spot trying to come up with this schedule while maintaining eight league games and keeping a permanent crossover opponent to preserve long-standing rivalries. But things would be a lot easier if said rivals were all paired in the same divisions, opening up two slots of rotating crossover opponents.

That would allow rivalries to be preserved and give ACC teams an opportunity to see each other more frequently. How should a coach explain to a player that in a five-year window, he might never have an opportunity to play Florida State or Virginia Tech?

Look, if the Big Ten can switch its divisions each time it expands (creating divisions first with the Nebraska addition, then changing them with Rutgers and Maryland entering), surely the ACC can do the same.

This is a new era, and, well it makes little sense to plug Louisville in place of Maryland and pretend the Cardinals will magically form a rivalry with Virginia worthy of making them permanent crossover opponents.

I hear the competitive balance argument. There is no such thing as finding competitive balance. In 2005, Clemson was not seen as a power in the Atlantic Division. Boston College was. Today, Clemson is an elite program. BC just finished a 2-10 season.

In the Coastal, the only representatives in the ACC title game have been Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Is that competitive balance? Hardly.

It is time. Scrap the current divisional alignment and start over. Get teams better situated geographically. It makes much more sense to have Pitt, Syracuse and BC in the same division not only for travel, but because they all are former Big East rivals. There should be no stigma attached to that.

I have no issues with Florida State and Miami being paired up, either. We have never seen a rematch between them in the ACC title game, so it’s not as if that is something we all would miss.

College football has changed. The league itself has changed. It’s time for the divisions to change, too.

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