I think 12 schools will be the perfect quantity. There has been talk of adding one more school to bring the ACC total to 10 schools. This makes no sense to me because of all of the scheduling problems that will ensue.
Who Comes Aboard?
The Big East will die soon; it is just a matter of time. In this day and age, you cannot build a conference around schools that don't field Division 1 teams in both football and basketball. So, I say plunder the Big East instead of going after teams from conferences that are well established…such as the Southeastern Conference. The three obvious choices to me are Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Miami. All three even have natural rivals already in the conference (Virginia, Maryland, and Florida State). Many have suggested Syracuse as a possible addition, but the distance to upstate New York is just not feasible in my opinion, especially for non-revenue sports.
North and South
With 12 teams in the conference, two divisions must be set up to accommodate scheduling. The simple solution to dividing the teams up is to create a North and South division. The South division would consist of Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Wake Forest. The North Division would include Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. Breaking up Tobacco Road is a little tough to do. However, NC State and Wake Forest are a good fit for the South division because their fan base has more in common with the southern schools than those in the North. Leaving Duke and North Carolina in the same division also keeps in tact their rivalry in football, and especially in basketball.
I like the idea of only having 8 conference games. This allows for one non-conference rivalry game, one early season cupcake, and one match up with a national powerhouse from another conference to make 11 games a year. Five conference games would involve the teams in your respective divisions. For Clemson, that would mean yearly match ups with Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and NC State. Just like now, those games would rotate home and home series every other year. The other three conference games would come from the opposite division. A two-year home and home series would be created with three of the opposite division teams. After that two-year rotation, each team would rotate their opposite division foes. This would ensure that each school would be guaranteed a two-year home and home series with every school in the opposite division every four years. In other words, each team would play every team in the opposite division twice every 4 years.
Post Season Football
Similar to the SEC, the ACC would have a championship game with the two champions from each division. This game could be played the first week of December in Charlotte at Ericson Stadium. Other possible sites could be Orlando (Citrus Bowl), Columbia (Williams Brice Stadium), and Jacksonville (Gator Bowl).
Again, let's stick to the current 16 conference games a year. Home and home games each year with those in your division for 10 of the 16 games. Next, you would play each of the six teams in the opposite division once during the year, rotating home and home every other year.
Post Season Basketball
Let's go back to the old 8 team ACC Tournament format and do away with the play in game and byes. To do this, only the top three teams in each division would be guaranteed a trip to the tournament. The final two spots in the tournament would be the teams with the best conference records that did not finish in the top three of their divisions.
All non-revenue sports, including baseball, can figure scheduling out on their own, because I don't care how they do it. It can't be any harder, logistically, than that of football and basketball. Those opposed to expansion will say scheduling in all sports is a challenge and undoubtedly unfair. Tough cookies. Just set it up the best you can and live with it.
Will It Ever Happen?
The answer to the above question is…it has to. If the Atlantic Coast Conference does not change their current position and agree to actively pursue expansion, it will die a slow death. The Tobacco Road schools are staunchly opposed to expansion…mainly because it will lessen their influence on conference policy. But that arrogance and stubbornness will also sign your death warrant if it persists. It will be a very interesting next couple of years.
Maybe the real question should be…Clemson…do you have a back up plan if the ACC crumbles? If not, you better.
You can reach Scott Rhymer at email@example.com.