Let's fix some scheduling.
For the ACC as a whole, I can't imagine teams being asked to play nine conference games plus Notre Dame (especially with several of them maintaining tough out-of-conference rivalries) once the Irish come aboard as a ... whatever they are now. More likely: regular games against the Irish count as out-of-division conference games, both for scheduling and for the standings. There, that was easy.
But as for Notre Dame itself ...
As far as I can tell (based on the excellent FBSchedules.com and elsewhere), here's the schedule Notre Dame has lined up at the moment, with ACC teams conveniently bolded:
2014 looks like a full schedule and then some (there's still some moving around to do), meaning we have three good reasons this won't happen until 2015 (Notre Dame's deal with NBC lasts through then, and the Big East insists upon a 27-month notice of exit -- okay, so two good reasons). Could still happen in 2014, though.
There really is a whole lot of ACC on there from 2015 onward, though. It could all stay as it is, or it could be rearranged to create a cycling format, but there's a lot of ACC already.
If you're the conspiracy sort, you can't help but wonder whether this has been in the works for a long time now (and camouflaged by scheduling Syracuse and Pittsburgh, teams that weren't even in the ACC yet). Such a grand design would mean Notre Dame and the ACC had Wednesday's announcement in mind for literally years, then sprang it days before the 2-0 Irish were already set to co-star on College GameDay. Now the conference move will be talked about all day Saturday. You don't become one of the biggest brands in the sport by accident, and John Swofford is still a ninja. If you're the conspiracy sort.
But let's get down to the business at hand: creating a schedule rotation that crams 14 teams into five annual slots. I stared at this for at least an hour before finding the solution.
There's no way to do it without one team playing the Irish twice every three years. This means there are two ways to handle that single game left over, assuming the ACC doesn't add any more schools:
- Rotate the extra game every three years, so that each team plays the Irish once every three years and twice every 14th triennial. The schedule rotation would take 42 years to fully complete.
- Assign one team semi-protected rivalry status with the Irish, meaning one team gets a home-and-home with Notre Dame every three years while everybody else just gets one game. The schedule rotation would take six years.
As Bud Elliott suggested, Boston College has a case to continue its regular rivalry with Notre Dame. Others like Miami and Georgia Tech have history with Notre Dame, but not quite as recent and frequent as that of the Eagles. The two have played nearly every year since 1992, share similar school mission statements and usually wear pretty much the same helmets, Adidas be shunned.
So BC is our solution. For the ACC, this also means giving one of its schools a spot in the second tier of Notre Dame's rivalry games. Since the Irish have about 11 tiers worth of rivals, that's worth something.
From there, deciding how to arrange the rotation itself is the easy part. It could be based on anything. I chose to use Five-Year F/+ Rankings to rank the ACC's teams in each division, then stagger Notre Dame's opponents so that they get a good mix of traditionally tough and traditionally weak teams. They'll also get a mix of Coastal and Atlantic opponents, plus alternate between three road games and three home games. That also means alternating between playing three ACC TV games and three Notre Dame TV games. Everybody's happy?
Here's the rotation grid, repeating every six years:
That's Nos. 1 and 3 from one division and Nos. 3, 5 and 7 from the other for Year 1. Then something like the opposite for Year 2, but accounting for Boston College already being on there. Then everybody left over for Year 3. Then repeat, with hosting status flipped. Seems simple to me, but that's because I was staring down the barrel of mapping out "twice every 14th triennial."
And since the whole thing ends every six years, the formula used to rank the ACC's teams could be refreshed, ensuring the Irish don't end up with unbalanced schedules as programs improve or sink.
Based on what we know about the future of Notre Dame's schedules*, here's something like how that could shake out (12 games a year, split almost evenly between home and road):
* USC and Navy are staying, no matter what. Stanford is also a priority even though few care about that game, as it guarantees a recruiting trip to California every year (the Irish tend to pick up two or three California players every year) and it's academics-y. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue have deals with Notre Dame that will last for a while now, but the two Michigan schools have built-in years off, and Michigan-Notre Dame might not be mission-critical anyway.
What do we think?
Any obvious problems here? What would you suggest?
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