TQ: How To Fix The ACC

Posted Oct 2, 2012

Tuesday Question: Terry Johnson on How To Fix The ACC

Tuesday Question 

How To Fix The ACC

How To Fix ...
- ... LSU, by Russ Mitchell
- ... the ACC, by Terry Johnson
- ... California, by Rich Cirminiello
- ... Michigan, by Bart Doan
- ... Virginia Tech, by Matt Zemek
- ... the Big Ten, by Phil Harrison

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

With a 2-12 record in BCS bowls, and a poor showing in this year's non-conference portion of the schedule, the gap between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the other four power conferences is as wide as it's ever been.

However, it does not have to be this way. If the ACC would just make three simple changes, it could close the gap and establish itself as one of the top conferences in the land.

The first thing that the ACC needs to do is to have every school start scheduling tougher competition. If the conference really wants to be the best, it needs to consistently beat the best. The only way to get there is to be willing to play anyone, anytime, anywhere. This time-tested approach worked for Bobby Bowden at Florida State in the 1970's, Sonny Lubick at Colorado State in the 1990's, and the amazingly successful Dan Hawkins - Chris Peterson era at Boise State.

Believe it or not, this philosophy has also worked in this conference. Three of the ACC's most consistent performers -- Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Clemson -- have improved dramatically over past few years in order to keep up with their in-state SEC rivals.

Scheduling tougher foes means that the ACC will need to scrap the nine-game conference schedule. Let's be honest: every legitimate Division I program must play seven home games to remain viable financially. Adding a fifth conference road game every other year means that teams must schedule three home games against whatever teams they can find to play, regardless of how bad they are.

In other words, playing nine game conference games will result in more glorified scrimmages against Savannah State, and fewer marquee matchups against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Even the conference's athletic directors, the only proponents of the new scheduling format, have to see the problem with that.

On the other hand, an eight-game schedule allows teams to have the best of both worlds. With only four road games to worry about, schools can schedule home-and-home series with elite competition without sacrificing the revenue of a seventh home game.

These two scheduling tweaks will help the ACC where it needs it the most: recruiting. While the conference has really stepped up its efforts recently, it still has a long way to go before it's on the same level as the other elite conferences.

So how could scheduling possibly cause a top prospect to head the ACC? Simple: every high school player in the country wants to play on the biggest stage possible.

This has always been the case. Starting in the 1920's, Knute Rockne made it a point to play a game in California late in the year to help lure recruits to South Bend. This approach was so successful that the Irish still travel to either Stanford or USC every December.

By playing against a marquee opponent every week, the ACC will start landing more of the nation's best players. Coaches can use the tough schedule as a powerful recruiting tool, letting incoming freshmen know that they will play in big games every week without the tune up games that the other conferences play.

Believe it or not, that's all the ACC needs to do to cement itself as power conference: make some scheduling changes and bring more of the nation's top talent into the league. It won't be easy, and it probably won't be popular.

But it will work.