Rising costs of non-conference games factoring into ACC football and basketball schedule expansion talks
Athletic directors from the 12 Atlantic Coast Conference schools met last week in Blacksburg, Va. for their annual fall get-together, and one of the topics of discussion centered on whether to expand conference schedules in football and basketball.
This is a topic that the ACC ADs have discussed regularly for the last couple of years, and Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage said Monday in a telephone interview that talks never have escalated to the point of forming an official proposal, much less taking a vote on the matter. He described the discussions as "purely exploratory."
However, the idea of expanding conference portions of schedules -- from eight to nine games in football and from 16 to 18 games in basketball -- is becoming appealing to more ACC athletic directors due to the rising costs of arranging for non-conference contests.
Teams in the country's six most prominent conferences -- ACC, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10 -- often schedule "guarantee" games to fill out most of their non-conference slates in football and men's basketball. Under such agreements, the bigger school pays the smaller school a certain amount of money to play at the bigger school's stadium/arena.
"Non-conference scheduling is becoming increasingly expensive for everybody," Littlepage said. "And if there's a way that we could curb that to some degree, it would be attractive to me."
Littlepage noted that the financial advantages of lengthening conference schedules in football and basketball would not be "the primary determinant for the people that will be talking about this and voting on it eventually," but it will be a significant factor in future discussions.
Teams in the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 play 18-game conference schedules in men's basketball, while the ACC, SEC and Big 12 play 16-game conference schedules. In basketball, the Pac-10 plays a nine-game conference schedule, while the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC play eight-game conference schedules. In football, the Big East consists of only eight programs, and consequently, its teams play a seven-game conference slate.
"I think one of the biggest reasons that it would have some level of attractiveness to me personally is because of how non-conference scheduling is done generally," Littlepage said. "And I think many of our fans would prefer to see us playing more conference opponents, as opposed to playing some of the non-conference opponents that you see on all of our schedules across the country at the BCS level, and in particular in the ACC.
"I would say that it could help to make it a little bit less worrisome on the non-conference scheduling side. In football, instead of having to schedule four non-conference opponents, having to schedule only three. And then in men's basketball, minimizing or cutting back by two, the number of non-conference games and guarantees, etc., etc."
This season, the Virginia football team's non-conference home opponents were 1-AA Richmond, 1-AA Virginia Military Institute and Eastern Michigan, which has not won a game since 2008.
Littlepage said the discussions among ACC athletic directors of expanding conference schedules in football and basketball are not nearing the point where they would progress beyond the exploratory stage.
He also said that "exposing and promoting" the profile of ACC football and basketball also would serve as motivation for his fellow ACC athletic directors to push for conference schedule expansion in the future, as would the "competitive equity" that a nine-game conference schedule in football and an 18-game schedule in basketball would provide.
"The more people that you play within your conference, the fairer it is in terms of, in football, who you don't play, and in basketball, who it is that you play twice," Littlepage said. "So you have a situation where, in basketball, if you play on your conference schedule in a given year home-and-home with Maryland, North Carolina and Duke, three schools certainly that in the last half a dozen years been at the top of the conference standings, you have a much tougher road than a school whose round-robin opponents are schools other than those three.
"So the more games that you play, the more round-robins that you play, and then the fairer across the board and the more equitable across the board that the conference schedules are for everybody."
| October 11, 2010; 4:29 PM ET
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