Only a few months ago, ACC commissioner John Swofford announced that when Pitt and Syracuse join the league, football would move to a nine game conference schedule. The schedule would include six divisional and three inter-divisional games. Many were not all that fond of this format as it would give half of the league only four conference home games every other year. Why was this a problem you ask? Well, these schools have grown accustomed to playing seven or eight home games a year, so much so that their athletic department's budget is built around the revenue generated from the extra home games.
Then along came Notre Dame.
When Notre Dame recently joined the ACC as a partial member (all sports, except football and hockey), it was also announced that the Irish would play five ACC teams a year in football. That means that five ACC teams would have 10 games tied up with ACC-determined opponents, leaving only two non-conference games. For schools like Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech who traditionally play an annual game against an in-state rival (South Carolina, Florida, Georgia respectively), this deal would leave them with a single schedule opening. When 11 of 12 games are tied up in matchups against the ACC, the SEC, and Notre Dame, two things are almost guaranteed...1) scheduling seven home games consistently will not be an easy task, and 2) the road to the BCS Championship became that much more difficult.
This format was simply not going to work for the ACC football powers.
Worry no longer, Seminole fans. Common sense prevailed when John Swofford announced that ACC football would return to an eight-game conference format in 2013 and beyond.
With the addition of Notre Dame playing five games annually against ACC teams, the league has determined it will play an eight-game conference schedule for 2013 and beyond. Divisions, primary crossover partners and rotating opponents from the opposite division will remain consistent to what was previously announced.
Pitt, a member of the Coastal division, will be partnered with Syracuse from the Atlantic division for their yearly game. That solidifies seven of Pitt's eight opponents in the new format. The final game will rotate through the other six Atlantic division schools, unfortunately meaning that it will take six seasons to play every ACC school, 12 years to play each school home and away.
Scheduling format changes will effect other sports as well. ACC basketball, who had previously announced that it would be moving to an 18-game schedule, is sticking with it. However, the league will move to a two-partner format.
Each year, teams will play every league opponent at least once with the two partners playing home and away annually. In addition to the four annual games against partners, the remaining 14 conference games will feature home and away games with two rotating opponents and five home-only games and five road-only games.
The two partner format was pushed for by many schools who had lost rivalries in the one-partner format. NC State, for instance, had previously enjoyed yearly home and away games against in-state basketball powers Duke and North Carolina. In the one-partner format, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils were partnered together, leaving NC State to partner with Wake Forest.
Originally, Maryland was scheduled to be Pitt's primary partner. This will hold true in the new format as well. Taking up the position as Pitt's second partner will be the Syracuse Orange. As for teams like Duke and North Carolina, the Panthers will continue to play them once a year. However, Pitt will play them twice on a rotating schedule of once every six years.
Other changes of note on the basketball side involve the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Since the Big Ten only has 12 teams, three ACC teams will not be able to participate in the challenge. The league will select its participants based on the previous year's RPI, with the top 12 teams getting the nod.