Decisions await for ACC leadership


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As college football has evolved the past few years, teams and conferences have had to adjust with it. In some situations, they're still sorting out how to adapt to the new landscape.

That's why future league scheduling figures to be the main order of business when the ACC's athletic directors gather this week at the league's spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.

The biggest question they'll address is whether the league stays at eight conference games for football or moves to nine. Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said he thinks it's likely there will be a vote on the topic, which would come Thursday.

"Any of the meetings that I've been in, the leaning has been toward eight games," Pederson said last week. "But people have had a chance to talk about it, think about it. Next week it'll be interesting to see where everybody falls."

The complicating factor in the ACC's decision is its deal with Notre Dame to have the Irish play five league teams every year. Add in teams such as Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson that have annual non-conference, in-state rivalry games, and a nine-game ACC schedule would make things cluttered.

Last month, the Southeastern Conference voted to stay with eight league games, a decision that has drawn criticism from coaches in the Pac-12 Conference, which plays nine.

The issue arises at a time when teams and leagues are trying to figure out the best schedules for the upcoming College Football Playoff, which will supposedly factor strength of schedule into its rankings.

In addition to competitive balance, a nine-game schedule would increase the frequency of Pitt playing marquee ACC teams such as Florida State and Clemson in the Atlantic Division. As the schedule stands, the Seminoles do not visit Heinz Field again until 2026. But Pederson said he's in favor of keeping the current format.

"The reality is the SEC's done this successfully for a number of years in that same way and they just voted to stay the way they are," he said. "So they have years where people don't see a lot of people, either. It's hard to have everything."

Other options to remedy that would be to eliminate permanent divisional crossover opponents and have two rotating spots. There also has been some talk of eliminating divisions entirely, which would require a change to NCAA rules that require a conference to have 12 teams in two divisions to have a championship game.

"There's legislation being discussed that would change that requirement, but it hasn't been passed and it's not even really on the docket to vote on at this point," Pederson said. "That would really affect the divisional discussion."

Beyond scheduling, the athletic directors will also discuss a potential change to the NCAA's governance structure that would grant more autonomy to the "Power Five" conferences, the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. One impetus for this change, which will come to a vote in August, is to allow the schools with large budgets to begin offering full cost-of-attendance scholarships, including a $2,000 stipend.

Pederson has long been a proponent of the stipend, and was hopeful it is closer to becoming a reality.

"Things like cost-of-attendance and those kinds of things might be hard to push through for 300-something schools, but maybe you can have a little more autonomy with legislation for a smaller grouping of schools," he said.

"Potentially we could make legislation that would allow us to do certain things but not require everybody else to do it. A lot of it is resource-based, saying, 'OK, this is something we can afford to do that not everybody can afford to do.' "

The league meetings begin today with the athletic directors and continue Tuesday and Wednesday with coaches from football and men's and women's basketball. The session will wrap Thursday with any votes that arise from the discussions.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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