July 7, 2004
The landscape of college football and the landscape of the conference have certainly changed. How would you characterize that process for athletics directors? When you look at where those initial conversations started and where they’ve ended up, is it a satisfying resolution?
To start by answering the last question first, it is a satisfying resolution. I just think that as a conference, if we had not expanded we may have been at the other end of the spectrum one day down the road and that is being a nine team conference with no where to expand. I believed it was imminent that there would be further conference realignment, and we simply got in the front end of that rather than being at the back end with very few options or places to go. While I think most of those sands have settled now, over the course of the next 18 months when all of these conferences will be in a new form and implementation will have taken place, I don’t think there will be another huge movement within the next five year window. There could be some residual movement perhaps, but certainly I think now as you look at college football you will have, for the most part, conferences of roughly 12 members.
How difficult was the conference realignment process? Which was harder, determining who was coming in or how to align the conference which we haven’t done yet in basketball if I’m correct? In terms of the football division, I know everybody had certain teams they wanted to play. It was obviously important for us to have Miami.
The process was at times extraordinarily difficult, particularly at the end of the process and it’s very complex in its make up. We had numerous conversations, we didn’t always agree of course, but we talked through a lot of things and that’s what is so great about the Atlantic Coast Conference. We can disagree but at the end of the day leave the room as one again. But I would not be being honest if I didn’t say there were some very difficult issues to come through and get through. The divisions were one of those difficult issues and who would be in which division. You’re correct that the divisions as we sit here today apply to football only. There are still a lot of conversations to be had relating to our Olympic sports and ultimately what we incur there. For now all teams will go to conference championships and then we’ll simply assess that as a league and make modifications where we deem necessary. But some of the twists and turns that occurred toward the end of the expansion process…you almost had to have been there and gone through it to understand just how bizarre it became toward the end.
Part of the fallout from that for most of the institutions, Florida State in particular, is that it has left some openings in our future football scheduling that maybe you thought you didn’t have. It is well documented that it has been a coast to coast ripple in terms of all of a sudden schedules don’t jive, so there are some holes in the future football schedule. Surely one of the defining qualities of Florida State is to play big time opponents, even though obviously the ACC has improved greatly. Can the fans still look for some blockbuster non-conference opponents?
That’s a great question because of the fact as you articulated that’s how the program here was built. Bobby’s (Bowden) philosophy has been to play whomever was out there willing to play us and first become competitive at those games and then win those games and become a dominate force as you look at the entire landscape of college football. Florida State became a force through that particular strategy. What has changed, and has changed relatively dramatically, is that expansion is a part of that as we are now a 12 team football conference with one of our archrivals included in that group. Miami is now a conference game. For years that was a non-conference game that was played on a national stage because of the ratio of the success of both programs. The conference as you mentioned has improved.
The other dramatic change would be to look at programs like Maryland, Virginia, NC State and Clemson. These are programs that have an opportunity now to be top 25 programs on an annual basis and in some cases top 15 or top 10 programs. Certainly Miami has been and remains that. We play Florida every year, which is another traditionally strong program. So when you say will we continue to play top rated national programs, we will, but the balance is comprised of some of our own conference teams. That was not the case when we entered the Atlantic Coast Conference where we were clearly dominant not only winning games but winning by wide, wide margins on a consistent basis. We can see that already the gap has been closed, and through expansion, I don’t think that this is arguable but we have suddenly become one of the premier conferences in the country in football. So, the level of competition is such that we don’t have any concerns over strength of schedule. Having said all of that, yes we still do want to maintain the opportunity for intersectional games against those types of opponents, traditionally rich football programs. But there has to be a balance there. We would be foolish to more or less overdo that when we don’t need to overdo that. I think that agreeing to play Miami on Labor Day Monday, which offers us maximum exposure for a university or program, is exciting and by the same token it potentially presents, if we continue it after the first two years, an open date after the game which would not be something you’d want to do annually because then you’re playing 10 straight games. We have to schedule with that in mind and if we’re going to play a short week, we have to be selective in terms of who we would play following the Miami game.
You look around the country and that’s occurring all over the place. With the SEC and the Big 12, that’s what they do routinely. So it will represent somewhat of a shift for us. But if we can maintain the balance of playing in a much stronger league, one of the premier leagues in the country, continuing to play Florida, we will then mix in some traditional intersectional games, which could be a series of games where we don’t return the game. Games where someone comes here to play us just one time. We’re discussing some two for ones where someone would come here twice and we would return once. It will take at least until the end of the summer perhaps on into the fall to get contracts signed on all these games for 2010 but that is our goal to keep that balance.
All of the ACC football programs adjusted in terms of not playing two conference opponents. For Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are not on the schedule in the immediate future. Is there a chance that they will come onto the schedule?
They will. And that’s a good question because a lot of people are concerned about that. After about a six-year rotation, we will play everyone. Everyone in the conference will play everyone else. It will just take a while. It’s not a direct copy of what the Big 12 and the SEC does but it does afford us a rotation where we will not want to go too many years without playing Georgia Tech, without playing Virginia. There will be a rotation that will be advantageous in some years and in some years will be just the opposite. That’s just what the result of a 12 team conference presents.