With ACC-SEC rivalry games and Notre Dame, Swofford delays final say on football until late July

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo by John Markon

Now that the ACC has announced it won’t make a decision on whether to play nonconference football games until late July, the league has some other issues to figure out.

The Big 10 said Thursday that it will not play nonconference games, which had a ripple effect throughout college football. One national writer said that the ACC would follow suit, but he jumped the gun. The ACC wasn’t prepared to make such a decision this early and league commissioner John Swofford said Friday afternoon that he anticipates the conference will make a decision “in late July.”

That decision, by the way, will come from the newly formed ACC board of directors, which is essentially the school presidents.

Meanwhile, Swofford said earlier this month that should the Power 5 conferences decide to go along with the Big 10 and decline to play nonconference games, the ACC would do everything it could to help fill out Notre Dame’s schedule.

Another issue arose on Friday when we learned that if the ACC and SEC decide to eliminate nonconference games, what will happen to storied rivalries like Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and Louisville vs. Kentucky — games all normally played at the end of the regular season.

The four SEC schools have been adamant about playing those four rivalry games. I’m sure the ACC half of the equation would equally want to keep those games against their SEC opponents (imagine the uproar if UVA didn’t play its annual game against Virginia Tech back when the two rivals weren’t conference opponents).

So, here’s the rub.

If the ACC plays conference-only games — eight of ‘em are presently scheduled — and insist upon playing those rivalry games, that’s nine games.

Three of those four — Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville — are already scheduled to play nonconference games against Notre Dame. Remember, Swofford wants the ACC to fill out the Irish schedule, which also includes nonconference games against Wake, Pitt and Duke due to Notre Dame’s agreement to play six games a year against ACC schools as a “league partner.”

So, if Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville all play the extra game against Notre Dame and their rivalry games against the SEC, that’s a 10-game schedule.

If you’re going to play a 10-game schedule, then why not go ahead and just play the regular 12-game schedule as planned?

Which brings us to the fact that if those six schools are obligated to play a nonconference game against Notre Dame (for a nine-game schedule), then what happens to Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Florida State and Syracuse?

What if the SEC gets its way and plays those four rivalry games against ACC schools?

Does that mean some ACC schools would play eight games, some play nine, some play 10? Where’s the equality in that?

If the ACC helps fill out Notre Dame’s schedule, what league schools get to play the Irish and which ones don’t?

There’s a lot on Swofford’s table right now in solving this dilemma.

Of course he would likely want to play the full schedule. Of course he wants to do what’s the safest thing for the conference’s football players, coaches and staffs. It’s a giant-sized college football puzzle and some of the pieces are missing at this time.

It was a smart decision to delay a decision until everything is worked out.

There’s still time to wait and see what happens. Maybe it was the Big 10 that jumped too early.

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