Caulton Tudor

ACC, SEC share scheduling quandaries

Posted July 10

Matthew Dayes (21) runs to the outside with the ball. Florida State defeated NC State 24-20 on November 5, 2016 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Jerome Carpenter/WRAL Contributor)

The summer kickoff for Southeastern Conference football opened a 4-day stand Monday in Birmingham, Ala. It’ll be wrapping up at about the same time the ACC begins its 2-day event Thursday in Charlotte.

There will be several common topics at both venues, including the fact that the ACC last season made off with the national championship trophy (Clemson) and the Heisman (Louisville’s Lamar Jackson).

But another area of common ACC/SEC ground is more complicated, far more controversial and potentially more disorderly – divisional imbalance and its impact on college football across the board.

In the SEC, it’s the West Division, home to mighty Alabama and six aspiring Bamas that regularly overwhelm their East Division counterparts.

In the ACC, it’s the Atlantic with Clemson, Florida State and Louisville that have a habit of snuffing the Coastal.

As much as they might prefer to dodge the issue, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and the ACC’s John Swofford will be asked about what – if anything – should be done to level the divisional playing field.

In the SEC, the issue has been a near constant talking point among coaches and administrators since Bama, Auburn and LSU of the West started dominating league play more than a decade ago.

Since 2000, the Crimson Tide has won five league titles, including the past three. Auburn has won three during the same time frame and LSU has won four.

The last winner from the East was Florida in 2008.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly has pushed the idea of football reshuffling beginning with the argument that his school would be a better fit in the East and Missouri should be in the West.

“It makes more sense for Auburn from the standpoint of demographics of our students, not our student-athletes,” Jacobs told reporters in June.

Jacobs said that aside from Alabama, most of his school’s students are from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina (East schools), but very few from Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Auburn’s non-West games this season will be a trip to Missouri and a home game against Georgia.

In the ACC, some fans at both NC State and Wake Forest long have maintained their football teams would have more of a fighting chance in the Coastal. The ACC began divisional football play in 2005, more than a decade after the SEC.

Other than Virginia Tech in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and Georgia Tech in 2009, Atlantic teams have won each championship game, including Wake in 2006. Clemson and/or Florida State have won the last six.

To a large degree, scheduling disparity in football is unavoidable, particularly in the mega-conferences. Various coaches and ADs over the years have advocated doing away with divisions altogether and adopt smaller pods for games. But that policy could turn out to be just as inequitable, depending upon power shifts, coaching turnover and recruiting trends.

In a perfect world, no college conference would have more than 10 member schools but expansion and realignment have made that impossible for the foreseeable future.

From the member schools’ perspective, the money may be great but the organizational math is lousy in college football these days.

The theory at the outset of divisional competition in the SEC and ACC was that football success is so cyclical that all programs will have their day in the sun. It sounded reasonable then, but it’s gone in another direction on playing field.

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