In the midst of the made-for-tv announcement of ACC football schedules, comes some new guidance on out-of-conference schedules. Wake Forest’s 2023 schedule is set, but there may be changes in the OOC schedules down the road.
For the purposes of creating tv content, the ACC turned the announcement of the upcoming football schedules into a tv show Monday night. The opponents were already. So, this was a show about dates/schedules.
To that end, Wake Forest has:
8/31; vs. Elon
9/9; vs. Vanderbilt
9/16; @ Old Dominion
9/23; vs. GA Tech
10/14; @VA Tech
10/21; vs. Pitt
10/28; vs. Florida State
11/11; vs. NC State
11/18; @ Notre Dame
But the actual thread comes in the form of a strong suggestion from the conference offices that ACC teams beef up their out-of-conference schedules in future years. While this was already an ask from Commissioner Jim Phillips’ office, it is being reinforced as the conference goes to its first year with no divisional play. Phillips is asking schools to spend more of their out-of-conference schedules against Power Five schools or Army. It is intended to beef up the resume of the schools as we move closer to expanded playoffs.
For Wake Forest, it would eliminate games like Elon and Old Dominion, which create little value in the power rankings for the Demon Deacons. While Vanderbilt is not a good college football program, being part of the SEC makes the cut for the Commodores.
Obviously, this year’s schedule is in stone. But there could be changes to future schedules, albeit at a significant cost. Last Fall, Wake canceled a 2025 and 2026 home-and-home series with Liberty in order to go along with Phillips’ request. Financial terms were not announced.
The 2024 schedule includes North Carolina A&T, UConn, Ole Miss, and Army, (in the middle of the season). Ole Miss and Army clearly meet the requested standards. UConn is on the fringe considering the significant turnaround the program made in year one under new head coach Jim Mora. North Carolina A&T is not up to the new measurement, but there are a couple of “Yeah, but….” thoughts to this.
First, Phillips is not suggesting all 12 games have to be against Power Five schools. The guidance is simply to suggest that where upgrades can be made, they should be. There is also the consideration that making the changes can be costly. Out-of-conference games are often scheduled ridiculously far in advance as part of home-and-home agreements. The ACC schools would have to buy their way out of the North Carolina A&T-type games. Depending upon the negotiations, that could be upward of $500,000. And then who do you replace them with? This is an ACC-only initiative. The SEC is not looking to give up on its soft schedule OOC games. Looking at an expansive map into the Big 10, Big 12, or Pac-12 is going to be expensive when it comes to travel and logistical costs.
The changes do not have to wait until schedules have been fulfilled a decade out. If the Covid season of 2020 taught college football anything, it was that flexibility in scheduling can be done.
In 2025, Wake Forest only has 11 games scheduled thus far. They have eight conference games, and then out-of-conference games against Western Carolina, Ole Miss, and Army (again in the middle of the season). That leaves an opening for athletic director John Currie can land a P5 school. Getting that high-profile school would make it more palatable to the conference to leave Western Carolina on the schedule.
Clemson, in 2025, has games against Furman and Troy. But the Tigers also play LSU in addition to their annual rivalry game against South Carolina. While there may be regional attention for a game against Furman, it does nothing to help the ACC network, its content, or its promotion of the conference.
NC State has a 2024 schedule that only has 11 games to this point. The three out-of-conference games are against USF, LA Tech, and Western Carolina. Maybe…maybe USF could meet the commissioner’s expectations, but that is it.
UNC’s 2024 schedule has out-of-conference games against James Madison, NC Central, Charlotte, and Minnesota. Clearly, the commissioner’s office would hope to see some changes in that.
College football is on a 24/7 evolution and will be for years to come. While the ACC is stuck in an antiquated television deal and Grant of Rights agreement, the conference is going to be asking schools to change things that are changeable.