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STS Round Table: The Future of the ACC

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

There’s been a lot of college football news the past few weeks so we thought we’d delve right into it with a writers roundtable. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, which is conference expansion. The Big Ten added USC and UCLA. While this doesn’t directly impact the ACC directly, it makes clear that ESPN and FOX are controlling the sport and it is all about TV money, not regionality. What do you think Clemson and the ACC should do? What do you think they will do?

Ryan: I imagine the ACC is begging Notre Dame to join full-time, but if you’re ND I think you would rather the ACC get eaten up by the Big Ten and SEC and join the Big Ten. Now that USC has joined, it is a great fit for them. They could play Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, and USC in conference games.

I don’t know that there’s a lot of value to adding other teams to the ACC. Perhaps West Virginia could make sense, but I don’t think it changes things in a major way. It would be very interesting if they could remove teams from the conference to boost the per school TV dollar allotment. Fewer teams but more quality would improve the product and not spread resources so thin. I laid out some other scenarios in a previous article here.

If I was guessing, I think the ACC may stay as it is for a while, perhaps with adjustments to revenue sharing, and eventually collapse when the SEC or Big Ten chooses to poach some more teams. Provided Notre Dame doesn’t join I’d like to see Clemson in the SEC if they can bring along some ACC opponents with which they have build some history.

Jon: The Clemson-to-the-SEC beat has been humming for years, mostly by national homers who have tried to convince people that Clemson was only good because of the lackluster competition in the ACC and that to prove their legitimacy.

Unfortunately, gone are the days where Clemson can rely on the ACC to provide the national coverage it needs. I imagine anyone outside of the ACC rarely watched anyone else in the conference the past few years besides Clemson, and although the ACC is still a really strong conference in sports like basketball, soccer, and to some extent, baseball, the conference is really struggling to offer any national appeal in football outside of Clemson.

What should Clemson do? Follow the money. If it’s in the ACC, great. If it’s elsewhere, follow it. Clemson has done exceedingly well with ACC money, and you can expect them to only get better with SEC or Big Ten money. Clemson does not need the ACC anymore. On the other hand, if I’m the ACC, I’m doing whatever I can to keep Clemson in my corner. If the Tigers dart for the SEC or Big Ten, then the primary focus becomes keeping Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Virginia Tech, traditional powers within the conference. With the Pac-12 in quick decay, the ACC would be my bet for the next Power 5 conference to find itself in a similar situation.

One rumor floating around right now is the idea of the ACC and Pac-12 (10?) champions playing each other in a championship game in Las Vegas? What are your thoughts on this potential idea?

Ryan: This is a classic example of ESPN ruining the sport. It makes infinitely more sense to play the Big 12, which is closer and far better. They could have a neutral site championship game in Nashville. That would be awesome, but ESPN is focused on the ESPN vs. FOX battle. They lost USC and UCLA to a FOX conference. They want to keep the rest of the Pac-12 from falling apart so partnering them with another ESPN conference is a tiny step towards that. I have no real interest in Clemson vs. Oregon or Florida State vs. Utah foe-championship matchups though.

Jon: Do y’all remember The Alliance that the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 formed? Get ready for the red-headed stepchild that is the idea of the ACC and Pac-12 championship series. Seriously, what are we doing here? The two conferences that have been competing to put the worst product on the field amongst the Power 5 during the playoff era are now going to form a championship series that’s most likely to feature Clemson and Oregon every year? Big pass. I understand TV deals and money and all that shabang, but there is little-to-none national desire to see this deal come through. Do I think more non-conference games amongst more national brands like Clemson, Florida State, Oregon and Washington is a good idea? Sure, I’ve always wanted to play Oregon at some point, but do we need an entire championship game between these two that has no real implications on the playoff/national championship? No, not really.

The ACC made a positive splash when they announced they will dissolve divisions and instead use a 3-5-5 scheduling model where each team has three permanent rivals and then plays five of the remaining 10 ACC schools one year and the other five the next year. Clemson was assigned Florida State, Georgia Tech, and NC State as rivals. What are your thoughts on this?

Ryan: I wrote about this a while back and although it took a while, they did it almost exactly as I’d hoped. Clemson got the three opponents I was hoping for and we won’t have to play Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Boston College annually. Sure, we get Duke more, but it is still fewer bland games against teams I feel nothing towards.

Jon: The ACC doesn’t get a lot of things right, but this decision feels like a winner. The conference certainly catered to its alpha, Clemson, but it does feel like overall, not everyone got their fair share. We will miss classic annual matchups like the two Tech schools, but I think the model itself will work well. Clemson needed to play teams like Miami and Virginia Tech more often. Looking ahead to 2023, the schedule looks mighty appetizing if you’re a Clemson fan. I agree with Ryan; less Syracuse and Wake Forest is a good thing, although the Deacs and Boston College seem to be trending upward (relatively speaking, of course).