Tuesday, September 27, 2011

i still want a nine-game conference schedule

Last fall I expounded on my desire to have a nine-game conference schedule, the problem being essentially that we used to play teams every year and now we haven't played NC State since 2007.  The additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the conference is exciting in some fashion, but also only exacerbates the problem.  A lot.

The scenarios I gave you last fall are obsolete now, of course, but the necessity of a nine-game schedule so that we can actually play teams in our conference is - I think - pressing.  Seriously.  Let's say the ACC gets lazy and does nothing but fit Cuse and Pitt into the current format.  Remember, the NCAA bylaws state the following about a conference championship game:
The maximum number of football contests shall exclude the following: .... A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division.
What this means is that you can't have a CCG and a 12-game season without two divisions in your conference, and all the teams in a division must play each other.  It's conceivable the NCAA could be convinced to change this bylaw to accommodate creative scheduling for a 16-team conference, but almost certainly not for 14 teams.  So the only option is two divisions of 7.  14 is a sucky number this way; it doesn't divide very well.

So again, if the ACC gets lazy, keeps the same divisions and the same protected rivalry format, and just splits up the newcomers, we will have only one game each year that changes:

6 division games
1 protected rivalry
1 rotating

So we could play, say, Clemson, in 2013 (which we're currently scheduled to do) and then not play them again until 2019.  Six years between games.  That's bullshit.  Entire recruiting classes will come and go and never play against certain ACC teams.  The NFL has 32 teams, and granted they play 16 games instead of 8, but my Lions will still play every AFC team once every four years.

This would be a garbage setup.  Simply going to nine games would at least give you two rotating games and then it would be five years between games.   Less of a garbage setup.  Still garbage.  If I don't like four years between games, you can bet I don't like five either.

One possible solution, of course, is to lose the protected rivalry.  Then even if you don't play nine games, you can rotate through games such that at worst you keep the status quo when it comes to playing the opposite division (four years between games) and some of the gaps are better (only three years.)  Since we're now at the part where I make actual proposals, I'll illustrate how our crossover schedule would look that way, with only eight games:

(Pitt is a stand-in.  I have no way of knowing whether it would be them or Cuse assigned to our division.)

I'm sure you can guess the problem with that: we wouldn't get to play Maryland every year.  Maryland would be left pretty much entirely without a rival at all.  The ACC probably wouldn't care about this, but they would care that FSU and Miami aren't playing any more.  So losing the protected rivalry and keeping the divisions the same isn't really an option.

If you played nine games instead - six with your division and three rotating - it would be slightly more palatable.  You'd go three years at most and two years at least (calendar years) between playing someone.  I'll tell you right now though that any setup that ever has FSU and Miami skipping two seasons is still never gonna fly with the ACC.  Rivalries must go on.

Fortunately, the ACC doesn't have too many rivalries to protect.  Many teams have either a primary rival outside the conference (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Pitt) or no natural primary rival at all (Wake Forest, Boston College.)  These are the rivalries you really need to make sure are protected:

Virginia-Virginia Tech
Virginia-North Carolina
North Carolina-NC State
North Carolina-Duke
Clemson-Georgia Tech
Florida State-Miami

Supposedly Clemson has rivalries with NC State and Boston College, but I bet if you asked the average fan about that, they'd shrug.  Boston College especially.

So, you could realign the divisons as follows to keep all the rivalries intact and playing every year:


Boston College
Florida State
Georgia Tech


North Carolina
NC State
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

This is basically the only way you could realign, keep all relevant rivalries intact, and lose the protected rivalry crossover.  (You could swap Wake with one of the northern Big East interlopers, but, why?)  If divisions realigned like this, lost the protected crossover, and went to nine games, I'd be a happy camper.

But I don't think divisions will align like this.  Why?  Check out the geography.  What this has basically done is to put all the extreme north and extreme south teams into one division, and all the middle teams into another.  That would be cool for us, but the north and south teams might not like the travel.  A way disproportionate number of flights.  I'd like to say "hey, that's your problem, you joined up knowing very well there were teams 1,000 miles away" but I bet it doesn't work that way in the conference room.

You could spread around the disparity a little bit by maybe swapping all the North Carolina teams with all the southern teams, if you felt like creating one ungodly superdivision and one redheaded stepchild.  Seriously, does this look like fun?

Georgia Tech
Florida State
Virginia Tech

Not my definition of it.

This has been the long way of saying that I can't find a way of realigning the conference and at the same time, getting rid of the protected crossover.

Something unpleasant is therefore coming down the pike when 12 becomes 14.  Chances are we'll have to deal with one of the following unpleasantries:

- A huge, obnoxious length of time in between the playing of some very old, traditional matchups.
- Losing a rivalry game.

If the new schedule is promulgated in such a way that we do lose an every-year game with Maryland or UNC then we should certainly look into doing what Cal and Colorado did this year, and play the game anyway but count it as a nonconference game.

Fortunately, I have one bullet left in my chamber.  Of course it means going to nine games.  Try this one on for size:

In the even years we'd play two home and one away; in the odd years, two away and one home.  Or vice versa.  I don't care.  I also don't care that teams would get five conference home games in one year while other teams get four.  The Pac-Whatever has been doing this for a while and nobody was bothered by it.  The Big 12 is doing it this year.  Hell, ever since the advent of divisions in the ACC we've played three home games against our division in some years and two in others.

So does this make too much sense?  Obviously it does.  You would only skip two years between opponents.  Three calendar years, which is an improvement over the current four.  Yes, you wouldn't play them two years in a row like you do now, but that's going to be lost anyway.

I will admit that there may be teams who've already filled out their four-game nonconference schedule, and there might need to be an interim period before going to nine games.  The Big Ten is waiting til 2017 to go to nine games for this reason.  UVA has its nonconference schedule full until 2014; others may go even farther.  (But look, if it's like, VMI or Delaware State or something - just buy them out, man.)

So this is the schedule I'm rooting for, and since it makes way too much sense it means I'll probably just have to sit and fume over the crap the conference foists upon us instead.  Either that or we can go to 16.  I'm not gonna hash out all those possibilities until that actually happens, but 16 is a way easier number to work with; if they expand to 16 and convince the NCAA to allow them to use the pod system, even eight games is a solvable problem.  (I'll probably still want nine, though.)


This, by the way, is a special occasion of a very special kind.  Hold your applause til the end.  I'm pleased to say that this has been FOV's 1,000th post.  One thousand times I have sat at this computer, banged away at the keyboard until I had something that looked coherent enough to show the world, and hit Publish.  Some of them I've really liked, some of them I've hated even before I hit Publish, and then hit Publish anyway.  A little over three years, two hard drives, three national championships, countless recruiting board updates, one appearance on Yahoo Sports....and zero bowl games.  It's been a fun deal so far.  Here's hoping for 1,000 more.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on 1,000 posts, Brendan! Hears to many more! Cheers!

Keep up the good work. You are my favorite source for an opinion on UVA sports happenings.

Chief Wahoo said...

Congrats! Keep it up, definitely the best written and most insightful Hoo blog out there.

Go Hoos!

Anonymous said...

Divisions don't have to be static and there are very few rivalries in the ACC that have to be played each and every year to keep fanbases happy. Strangely enough, UVA has two of them -- UNC and VPISU -- though the latter has been very one-sided. The only other rivalry that has to continue is FSU/UM.

So, in even years, make the "Coastal" UVA, VPISU, UNC and [insert 4 teams]. In odd years, make the "Coastal" UVA, VPISU, UNC and [insert the other 4 teams]. As long as you keep UM and FSU together, all necessary every-year rivalries are preserved. And UVA gets through the conference schedule in fewer than two years, playing 8 conference games per year.

This is undoubtedly the sort of arrangement the ACC was considering with the "4-pod" talk. You'd assign two "pods" to play each other and thereby count as a "division" for NCAA purposes.

Playing 9 conference games would be a mistake. Strength of schedule is unimportant to pollsters and the media, generally, unless you're in the BCS at-large hunt, which UVA generally is not. Wins, on the other hand, are important.

Brendan said...

You wouldn't be pissed off about not playing Maryland every year? I would. I definitely promise you that at least, NC State fans want a piece of UNC every year; breaking that up would leave them as unhappy as Clemson fans if they canceled the South Carolina series.

The other ones are probably a little less important, but still.

I see where you're going with the pods and it brings up quite a world of possibilities. I still want nine games, though; I'd like to think that we are - or will be - competitive enough to stay bowl eligible that way.

The other possibility I'd been considering with the pods is that the NCAA might allow conferences to play a four-team playoff if all the pods at least played each team in their pod. But really, that's a discussion for when we add two more teams.

Adam said...

Congrats on 1,000 posts. I've been reading for the last 2+ years and it still is my favorite source for UVA sports info/commentary.

Anonymous said...

I don't care nearly enough about playing UMD every year to require that the conference be scheduled to accomodate it. Don't get me wrong, I strongly dislike UMD fans. But I don't live near the DC metro area, so I rarely see any. Playing UMD every other year would be plenty for me.

Maybe UNC/NCSU merits preservation: you are right about NCSU fans, but I'm not sure UNC fans care nearly that much and this should be a two-way street (see also UMD/UVA...). Still, we're talking about few rivalries that matter and I'm sure there's a way to get it done with divisional flexibility and 8 conference games.

Also, I agree we should be "competitive enough to stay bowl eligible" if we added a 9th conference game. I just don't think that's the right goal -- we should be frequently, if not consistently, ranked and nationally relevant. A tougher SOS makes that harder (not that we have always scheduled to win OOC; a repeated tactical mistake, I think).

Anonymous said...

Somalia State football rules!

Congrats on the 1000 posts, they're all better than what the competition has to offer.

Matt said...

Fantastic. Congrats, and I agree with the others that this is the best UVA blog.

Brendan said...

Aw you guys are too kind. I basically just try to fill a niche. Exactly which one, I'm still working on that.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on 1,000 posts. This is definitely the 1st UVA blog I check when looking for quality analysis.

Plus, I also love Michigan so thanks for those random mentions as well.