A JERSEY GUY: ACC Fumbles on FB Scheduling

Mark Blaudschun

So Notre Dame, how's married life with the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Just asking.

The release of the ACC football schedule, with dates, on Thursday, gave us a glimpse of the results and caused ripples throughout college football.

No ND-Navy,  no FSU-Florida,  no Georgia-Georgia Tech, no Louisville-Kentucky, no Clemson-South Carolina.

Schools scrambling to make last minute deals against non-conference rivals.

An opening week which could have kicked off with a prime time ESPN or NBC showcase game on Labor Day night, beginning with these games:

Thursday, Sept. 10

UAB at Miami

Friday, Sept. 11

West Virginia at Virginia

Saturday, Sept. 12

Ohio at Boston College

Clemson at Wake Forest

Duke at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Florida State

Western Kentucky at Louisville

Syracuse at North Carolina

NC State at Virginia Tech

Miami (Ohio) at Pitt

The ACC has created a situation that was avoidable.

Shame on the ACC

Shame on Notre Dame.

Shame on Navy.

A month ago, despite all the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was  a sense of optimism around the ACC that something could be worked out in planning the 2020 college football season.

Most people were content, if not happy, with the progress that was being made, despite overwhelming odds against them.

Now?

NO ONE IS HAPPY.

Let's start with the latest news--an ACC schedule, which this season includes Notre Dame as a full revenue sharing member in football, but does not have the Irish facing Navy in what was the longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football, dating back to 1927.

That game, originally scheduled to be played in Ireland in August, was switched to Annapolis on Labor Day weekend, as part of ESPN's showcase for starting the American Athletic Conference (Navy is a FB member) season.

More about that later.

Things changed in the last few weeks when the Power 5 conferences started to release their schedules.

The Big Ten made the first move, stating that only conference games would be played.  The Pac-12 quickly made the same move.

Next up was the ACC, which was involved in a long courtship with ND football--the Irish had signed a deal to play at least 5 ACC games a year in exchange for a slot for ND in the ACC bowl rotation (other than the Orange Bowl).

This season, Notre Dame had been scheduled to face six ACC teams--at Wake Forest, at Pittsburgh, Duke, Clemson, at Georgia Tech and Louisville.

With the Pac-12 and Big Ten non-conference game ban, Notre Dame had three openings, USC, Stanford and Wisconsin.

Not a serious dilemma for the Irish. As long as they had the foundation of 6 ACC games, the Irish, as an independent, were happy with home games against Western Michigan and Arkansas and a game against Navy, a long-time rival. 

That was a solid 9-game core, which shrunk just a bit when the SEC decided to play only conference games, which took Arkansas off the ND schedule.

The ACC, in the spirit of friendship and courtship (for ND becoming a permanent full time ACC member) said they would cover the Irish with at least two more ACC games and perhaps as many as four.

As an added incentive, the ACC also promised Notre Dame a full share of ACC television revenues, if Notre Dame would share its TV revenues from NBC, as well as be eligible for a slot in ALL of the ACC bowls. 

Such a deal also came with the understanding that the Irish would continue discussions about making the move to the ACC on a long-term basis, rather than a one-year arrangement.

The compromise that Notre Dame and most of the other ACC teams wanted was a 10 plus one schedule, allowing for one non-conference game against what, in many instances, were traditional rivals.

That would have worked, but the ACC put in a clause which stated that the non conference games had to be played as HOME games, within the borders of the school's state.

And with that move the Notre Dame AT Navy game was in jeopardy, which became official on Thursday when the ACC announced that ND would host Western Michigan on Sept. 19.

The easiest solution was to simply switch the site back to South Bend for Navy-ND, and perhaps even stage it on Labor Day night in front of a national NBC audience--a ratings guarantee.

That option disappeared when the ACC would not give Notre Dame an exception clause to play at Navy and when Navy, probably prompted by ESPN, didn't want to give up a home game (and national television Labor Day weekend audience) at the Naval Academy.

Navy and ESPN did a salvage job later on Thursday when they announced that Navy would open its season on Labor Day night with a home game against BYU.

Losing Navy as an opponent, even for a year, did not sit well with Notre Dame fans. Adding to it was Notre Dame's ACC schedule, which includes an Irish home game against Clemson on Nov. 7 followed by a road game at Boston College a week later and a road game at North Carolina on the day after Thanksgiving.

The Irish will conclude their regular season schedule with a home game against Syracuse on Dec. 5th

For ND, which had a reasonable expectation of finishing an unbeaten or lone loss season as an independent with either six or eight ACC games, good luck in getting through this season AND then having to win the ACC title on either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19.