ACC schedule decision due today

`Protected' rivals may be different for each sport


October 01, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford is expected to announce today how the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the existing nine-team league will impact athletic schedules beginning with the 2004-2005 season.

Swofford declined to comment yesterday as he left Bryant Hall on the University of Virginia campus, where the ACC conducted the first of two days of its annual fall meetings.

It is expected that there will be an eight-game conference schedule for football -- the same number of games currently played. Basketball likely would increase from a 16-game schedule to an 18-game schedule.

The most intriguing aspect of the schedule will be to see which schools will be considered "protected" rivals and play each other annually in football and on a home-and-home basis in basketball. According to Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage, those rivalries could be different in each sport.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow would not discuss the specific conversations she had yesterday, but gave some idea of which schools the Terrapins would like to play on a regular basis.

"In terms of football, we've talked about Virginia," Yow said last night. "That would make sense geographically. In terms of basketball, I've talked with coach [Gary] Williams about Duke. We haven't come to closure on any of these issues."

Given that Miami and Florida State are expected to continue their annual rivalry, it seems likely that the league also would try to maintain its marque games in basketball as well, meaning that Maryland would make sense for home-and-home series to continue with Duke and North Carolina.

But some of the league's other rivalries -- say between Maryland and North Carolina State -- might be cut to one regular-season game a year in basketball.

"I think everybody, every fan, every Internet guy is not going to be happy with everything," said North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler. "But we've got to try to work out what's best. Each school has a different opinion of what they need and what they would like to have. That's where all the discussion comes in. You've got to work out what's best for the overall group and also take care of the individual schools."

Asked how many regular annual league opponents each school might get, Fowler said, "When you get into twos or threes, it really gets difficult when you have 11 different teams. A lot of times, some of the same schools have the same teams they want to play."

Fowler said that expansion wasn't discussed, even as far as presenting a model schedule for a 12-team league in the event that another school, perhaps Boston College, is added later this year.

"We're just trying to work out 11-team scenarios," Fowler said.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, who described himself as a "rookie" at these meetings, concurred.

"I don't think expansion is an issue that is even on the agenda," Weaver said. "At least it wasn't on my agenda."

Littlepage said last week that expansion jumped from the league's back-burner to the front-burner after the NCAA denied a request to allow the ACC to hold a football championship game as long as it had only 11 teams.

Admitting that the expansion issue falls into the laps of the league's university presidents, Littlepage wasn't sure when that would be debated again.

"You're talking about a group that we haven't always been in the loop with," Littlepage said. "I have to be diplomatic about how I say this. We may not know until the very last minute about when they meet or plan to talk."

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