Sources: ACC leaning toward eight-game scheduling model

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Maintaining an eight-game scheduling model for ACC football has significant support entering a vote of league athletic directors this week in Amelia Island, Fla., several sources told

“Momentum seems to be going that way but a discussion and vote is a few days away,” UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Sunday night via text.

Added a separate athletic director who has supported a nine-game model: “I think it’s leaning toward an eight-game model. That’s what it feels like."

The ACC is the last of the five power conferences to decide on the surprisingly divisive eight-vs-nine issue among college football fans.

The ACC is also not as set on the direction as the SEC, whose officials were overwhelmingly in support of eight league games. An story in late April revealed half the ACC’s athletic directors prefer nine games.

But as one league athletic director pointed out, much of the legwork has been done well before the meetings. Athletic directors have been discussing this either privately or in meetings for months.

Faculty athletic representatives ratify the athletic directors’ vote, which should come Tuesday or Wednesday. Sources stress that the discussions will be thorough and that nothing has been finalized. Directors from recent full-time additions (Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville) plus Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock (hired in January) could prefer a spirited debate in Amelia Island.

Looming large in the decision are league powers Clemson and FSU, both of which favor eight.

League officials have been asked to consider a model similar to the SEC’s – an eight-game conference schedule, plus the guarantee of at least one game against another power conference. Many ACC schools already do this.

Notre Dame’s commitment of five ACC games per year lessens the pressure to jump to a nine-game format, which the Pac-12 and Big 12 already use. The Big Ten will begin a nine-game schedule in 2016.

The SEC gives the ACC a de facto partner in the eight-game model, so neither would be on an island going into the College Football Playoff era.

The ACC also will discuss the possibility of scrapping divisions.

The decision must be considered through the prism of playoff leverage and a potential ACC Channel, which is on hold while its long-term partner ESPN launches the SEC Network in August.

Perhaps nine games gives a channel more attractive conference matchups, but SEC officials argue its league has more inventory with eight because of the guarantee of seven annual home games for most teams along with the emergence of neutral-site games. The ACC could take this approach if its non-conference schedules are stout.

While an eight-game schedule draws the ire of the Pac-12, the Big 12 seems indifferent to the discussion.

In other scheduling news, the Mid-American Conference last week approved the continuation of an eight-game format, commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. This makes sense for a league that needs the extra non-conference game to bolster strength of schedule.

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