Football Without Divisions: Great First Step in Creating Stronger ACC

It’s said that the sum of the whole is greater than that of it’s two parts. Absolutely nothing describes the future of the Atlantic Coast Conference better.

ACC Commissioner, Jim Phillips, on behalf of the conference’s governing board, has petitioned the NCAA to make the conference division-less. It’s a great move to make things more appealing and likely more enjoyable by matching up the two best teams in the conference championship. Add to that, a new scheduling format that creates more competitive games, the revamping makes perfect sense. The current situation only ensures the likeleness of a mediocre product. Think the 2021 Championship.

Going division-less makes the ACC instantly more competitive, more valuable, and more interesting. After last year’s championship game, it was apparent change was imperative.

Except for the attendance of the 2020 game where due to COVID protocols, there was a mandated attendance limit of 5240, the attendance in 2021 was mere 57,856, that was a very generous count of fans in the seats. Add to that, the lowest TV market share among all conference championship games, it was the least-watched championship since it was permanently moved to Charlotte. It comes down to this, change or die.

Here’s a brief history of conference expansion and the creation of the two divisions.

Following the lead of the Southeastern Conference, on May 13, 2003, representatives voted in favor of extending invitations to three schools. The only certain school was Miami. Initially, the league favored admitting Miami, Syracuse, and Boston College but ultimately extended formal invitations to Miami and Virginia Tech, which joined after initially being overlooked.

After the eventual absorption of only Virginia Tech and Miami into the ACC, questions arose about how an 11-team league could fairly select participants in the conference championship game. Before the 2004 college football season, the ACC requested a waiver to the NCAA’s rule requiring conferences to have 12-plus teams before having a conference championship game. Before the season began, however, the NCAA rejected the ACC’s application, and the league had to use a semi-round-robin format to select a champion during the 2004 football season.

After that season, the inclusion of Boston College as the ACC’s 12th team solved the problem of enabling the ACC to have a championship football game.

Apart from the change to the conference championship game, there are two proposed scheduling format changes. In one proposal that has been discussed, each team would have two permanent opponents and play a rotating schedule of the remaining teams. In another format, the permanent opponents would be increased to three. Either option will give teams the ability to play each other more frequently.

While there are other major issues to confront, revenues for conference member institutions, Name, Image and Likeness guidelines, this was a smart, cunning move. In one fell swoop, Phillips thankfully made things within the conference way more interesting.

After years of passive, hesitant, and ambivalent conference leadership, it’s refreshing to see someone willing to embrace change. It’s a great first step in recrafting the perception of the ACC.

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