The goal is clearly to play football in the fall. The questions remain about how best to achieve that as well as how many games and when to start.
ACC schools are weighing various options for the 2020 season, and the league reportedly favors a schedule with 10 conference games plus a non-conference matchup, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported. The ACC is also evaluating a delayed start of the season, opening on Sept. 12, the Associated Press reported.
Commissioner John Swofford has said the league will make a decision by late July, and the clock is ticking. For months there was a feeling that time was an asset but now it is 43 days from Florida State’s kickoff with West Virginia at Atlanta. But the reported 10+1 model the ACC is debating could mean FSU-West Virginia is off the table (the Seminoles’ matchups with Boise and Samford would also be off).
Chick-fil-A Kickoff president Gary Stokan has modeled seating capacity at 25, 30 or 50 percent and seems agreeable to moving the date of the Sept. 5 game to later in the year. But Stokan admits he is also waiting on the ACC, SEC and Big 12 to make their decisions.
Before we look at the scenarios, let’s talk Notre Dame, independence and money.
The impact of Notre Dame
Accommodating Notre Dame is a complication. There is a report by WatchStadium’s Brett McMurphy that is wild: Notre Dame would play 10 ACC games and results would count in the ACC standings. Yes, Notre Dame isn’t a full member of the ACC because it wants its football independence, but now desperate times have created a difficult scheduling situation. The AP’s report also says Notre Dame playing 10 ACC games is on the table but there is uncertainty as to whether the games would count in the standings or if the Irish would be eligible for the ACC title game.
Should the ACC bail out Notre Dame? That will be a contentious conversation. Would Notre Dame be willing to share its TV money from NBC (reportedly $15 million annually) with the ACC schools for a year? That could help relieve the strain on FSU’s athletics budget as well as other schools around the league. The ACC could slot all of Notre Dame’s road games for the ACC Network as further leverage with Comcast.
Last, is this a one-year solution that admittedly is favorable to Notre Dame? Or is this building a bridge toward bringing Notre Dame to the ACC as a full member. ACC schools will want the latter, bringing Notre Dame’s revenue capabilities to the table.
Three ACC scheduling scenarios
The first option is the one that appears to be favored, based on reports. But we’ll throw in two others that have been discussed by Stokan and others around the ACC.
Ten ACC games, plus an out-of-conference matchup: This one was circulated by a few media members in North Carolina in the last few weeks and now by Thamel. It would allow for FSU to play five ACC home games, five ACC road games and Florida. This would preserve ACC-SEC matchups like FSU-Florida, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Clemson-South Carolina and Louisville-Kentucky but could adversely impact Notre Dame’s schedule. A pool of 14 ACC teams could be created to fill out schedules. Playing 10 league games would also give the ACC’s broadcast partners a larger inventory of games, if the full season can be played, and allow more games to air on the ACC Network. As much as ACC schools may not want to bail out Notre Dame, the promise of more Notre Dame games on the ACC Network could be leverage in negotiations with Comcast.
Eight ACC games, plus one OOC matchup: Fewer games but also more bye weeks, which may be more beneficial if schools are impacted by positive COVID-19 cases. This could be logistically easier given the current lineup of ACC opponents, which is eight. FSU may not be able to play all eight of its currently scheduled ACC opponents, a possibility if one team has a high number of cases, but the ACC could fill out the schedule with an available opponent. The Seminoles would still play Florida and the other ACC-SEC matchups are in the mix.
Eight ACC games, plus two OOC matchups: This scenario gives the capability to play the ACC-SEC games as well as the neutral-site kickoff games, which feature FSU-West Virginia, North Carolina-Auburn and Virginia-Georgia. This could leave some ACC schools looking for an out-of-conference opponent, and in that case a scheduling agreement with the SEC could help to fill out schedules for teams in both leagues. The ACC could begin with its league games and move a matchup like FSU-West Virginia to December. If the virus numbers decrease by then it’s possible more fans would be able to attend that game in Atlanta and increase the revenue each school could receive. That’s optimistic but the goal should be to safely play and safely allow fans to watch.