A nine-game ACC schedule may someday happen, but apparently not in the near term.
Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said that the possibility of moving from eight league games to nine had been an “evergreen topic” for ACC athletic directors to discuss at league meetings in the past, but not in recent years.
Bobinski commented on the matter last week in response to a column from the esteemed David Teel of the Daily Press in Virginia, who wrote that moving to nine games and providing more inventory (that is to say, more games) for ESPN would be wise, particularly as the league’s talks with the network about a possible channel continue. (My suspicion is that it’s going to happen eventually and possibly soon.)
Bobinski, in fact, said in Jan. 2014 that “I think it’ll be something that we’ll need to find a way to do as a league.” However, the league’s AD’s voted 8-6 in May 2014 to keep the schedule at eight games.
In an interview last week, he said that talk has been muted of late.
“We finally put it away and said, ‘We’re done talking about this for the foreseeable future,’” Bobinski said. “But it does come up still: ‘Hey, should we talk about it again? Is there any impetus from our television partner for them to want us to consider that on a more serious level?’”
Bobinski said that the league placing Florida State and Clemson into the College Football Playoff in the first two years is one significant reason to keep things as they are.
“What we’re doing at this point in time isn’t terribly broken,” he said. “Do we really want to rush to change something that’s performing reasonably well at this point in time?”
Tech, Clemson, Florida State and Louisville (or their coaches, at any rate) have another reason to want to stay at eight. All four play SEC rivals at the end of the season. A ninth conference game plus an SEC opponent is a considerable dosage of power-conference competition. Pittsburgh, for that matter, begins a four-year series with Penn State this fall and will renew its "Backyard Brawl" rivalry with West Virginia for four seasons starting in 2022. Notre Dame also is on the schedule for each ACC team roughly every third year. For those schools, that's 11 power-conference games about every three years.
Fans likely would love it (as long as their teams won), but such a rigorous schedule could clearly have a detrimental affect on players' physical condition, win-loss records and consequently CFP/bowl eligibility. (Then again, players might like playing so many marquee matchups, and a team that could handle such a schedule would leave no room for doubt about its CFP qualifications.)
However, if a ninth game were to become a significant piece of the puzzle for a potential ACC channel, however, that could be influential, as Teel wrote:
“Indeed, nine games are quite possible if, as expected, the ACC and ESPN agree by year’s end to broaden the league’s exposure through traditional (cable) and progressive (online streaming) means.”
(In 2014, in response to Bobinski’s comments, ESPN asserted that the network wielded no influence over whether the ACC were to go to nine games or stay at eight.)
Another welcome benefit of a nine-game schedule is more frequent games against cross-division opponents. As it stands, Tech plays the six Atlantic Division opponents other than permanent partner Clemson once every six years. A nine-game schedule would increase frequency to once every three years. Tech and FSU, for instance, won't play again (at least in the regular season) until 2022.
Bobinski said the nine-game matter “could come up at some point, but it’s not front burner right now.”
Worth considering: If the matter does return to the front burner, there may be more favor for a nine-game schedule, and there isn't much more favor necessary. The league would only require a simple majority, and eight games barely held in 2014. There's a lot of factors at play here - the aforementioned success in the CFP, a possible network, scheduling logistics (schools generally prefer seven home games, and a season with five guaranteed road games makes that more difficult) and the Tech-FSU-Clemson-Louisville matter.
Should be interesting.