The ACC still doesn’t know when Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be able to leave the Big East, but the conference went ahead and announced Friday how it will operate whenever that day arrives.
The 14-member ACC will stick with its current two-division format in football, with Pittsburgh joining the Coastal Division along with Virginia Tech, Virginia, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina. Syracuse will join the Atlantic Division with Maryland, Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina State and Wake Forest.
The scheduling format remains largely the same, except teams will play nine conference games each year, instead of eight. Every school will play one game each year against the opponents in its division, one game against a primary crossover opponent and two rotating foes from the opposite division.
Virginia Tech will still play Boston College every year as its cross-over football game, while Maryland and Virginia will remain cross-over partners.
For basketball, however, that is not the case. In lieu of divisions, each ACC team will play one primary partner twice a year and every other league team four times over a three-year cycle. In an intriguing twist for Terrapins fans, Pittsburgh was named Maryland’s primary partner. The other pairings are Virginia and Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Boston College, Duke and North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest, Florida State and Miami, and Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Each primary partner will play a home-and-away series every season. A team’s other 12 league opponents rotate in groups of four: one year both home and away; one year at home only; and one year away only.
The league previously announced that it would turn to an 18-game conference schedule beginning next season, but there is sure to be some hand-wringing over the fact that all four North Carolina schools will no longer play one another twice in basketball, and that Maryland will no longer get two annual regular season games against Duke, seen as the Terrapins’ biggest rival.
The ACC also said in its announcement, which came at the conclusion of the league’s annual winter meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that all 14 teams will still qualify for the ACC tournament but a decision on the format will be announced at a later date.
In Olympic sports, all conference teams will play one another at least once during the regular season. Baseball is the exception as they don’t currently play all conference opponents. The conference also said it will now hold an ACC championship event in women’s gymnastics. Maryland is one of three schools in the conference to currently sponsor the sport, but Pittsburgh will be the fourth.
The league reiterated, however, that it still is not certain when Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be able to leave the Big East, which has a 27-month exit notice clause that is being challenged in court by West Virginia as it tries to depart for the Big 12.
Since the ACC announced it would be adding two schools as part of the latest wave of conference expansion back in September, many had speculated whether the league would go to a north-south divisional format to reflect its growing footprint along the East Coast. Commissioner John Swofford acknowledged it was a possibility in October.
Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver was against the north-south arrangement because for the Hokies it would be “too much of yesteryear.” Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and Wake Forest athletic Ron Wellman said they were worried about preserving long-standing rivalries with North Carolina schools.
“We have been engaged in discussions on the various options for integrating Pitt and Syracuse since early fall,” Swofford said in a statement. “It’s a tremendous tribute to the leadership at our schools that we will be able to seamlessly add Pitt and Syracuse at the appropriate time when they become full playing members.”