Sports

ACC latest to drop divisions, starting in 2023

The ACC became the latest conference to scrap divisions in favor of a new scheduling format Tuesday, making 2022 the final year of the Atlantic and Coastal divisions.

Starting in 2023, the league announced it will move to a 3-5-5 format, in which each team has three permanent rivalry games played annually, with the other 10 opponents rotating on an every-other-year basis.

“The future ACC football scheduling model provides significant enhancements for our schools and conference, with the most important being our student-athletes having the opportunity to play every school both home and away over a four-year period,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement. “We appreciate the thoughtful discussions within our membership, including the head football coaches and athletic directors. In the end, it was clear this model is in the best interest of our student-athletes, programs and fans, at this time.”

The plans for a shift back to a single-division format gained steam during the league’s spring meetings in May, with the ACC hoping to improve its TV inventory of marquee games and set up a league championship game that would include its two best teams annually. Interestingly, the new format would not have altered the teams playing in the ACC title game in seven of the past eight years.

The ACC got a taste of the single-division system in 2020, when Notre Dame football joined the conference on a one-year basis due to COVID-19 restrictions. With 15 members, the ACC scrapped divisions, and the season culminated with a Clemson-Notre Dame matchup in the league’s title game, with both teams ultimately making it to the College Football Playoff.

The ACC is now the fifth FBS league to scrap divisions. The Big 12 has operated without divisions since 2011 after the departures of Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M in realignment. The American did away with the divisional format last year, when UConn departed for independent status. The Pac-12 and Mountain West have also voted to eliminate divisions for 2023. The SEC expects to follow suit but remains in discussions over the best format.

The new scheduling format preserves many of the league’s traditional rivalries, with Clemson-FSU, FSU-Miami, NC State-UNC and Virginia-Virginia Tech still on the books annually. But the shake-up does disrupt some other notable rivalries, including NC State and Wake Forest, who had played every year since 1910, the league’s longest-running uninterrupted rivalry.

Under the new scheduling plan, Pitt would have among the easiest slates. Its permanent rivals are Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia Tech, who have combined to win just 38% of their Power 5 games during the playoff era.

Georgia Tech, on the other hand, will endure the toughest schedule, with its permanent rivals being Clemson, Louisville and Wake Forest (combined 60% wins in the playoff era).

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