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News and notes from day one of ACC meetings

Written by Sam Werner on .

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — ACC athletic directors, as well as coaches for football, men's basketball and women's basketball are gathering this week down here at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. Here are a couple of notes from the first day of meetings...

- The biggest news to come out of Monday's session was the league' decision to stick with eight conference games as opposed to going to nine. Here's a link to my story from today's Post-Gazette. The league also voted that all members must now play one non-conference game annually against a "power five" team from a different contest. While this is a nice gesture, it's mostly just a formality. Every ACC team with the exceptions of Duke and N.C. State played a non-conference game against a power team last year. Pitt is in fine shape in that regard, with games set up against Iowa this year, Notre Dame next year and Penn State/Oklahoma State down the road.
"It is a scheduling initiative, a philosophy of scheduling, an agreement among our schools," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "Some may play more than one. I don't think there's any question that some will play more than one."

- Pretty much everyone here was asked about the comments from Pac-12 coaches (specifically David Shaw) denouncing the SEC's decision to stick with eight games, rather than nine (like the Pac-12 plays) and everyone here was pretty adamant that an eight-game conference schedule can be every bit as strong as a nine-game schedule, particularly with the required power non-conference game. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had some strong words that I quoted in my story today, and Swofford backed him up.
"First of all, I think you have to look at who those eight or nine games are against," Swofford said. "One year, maybe it's one way, another year maybe it's not, maybe it's the exact opposite. Our concern is the Atlantic Coast Conference. We feel like we're here to make the best decisions we can make for our league. There's nothing that mandates that every conference has to play the same number of conference games. There's nothing that mandates that each conference has to have a championship game, either. I respect the decisions that other conferences make, I'm sure that they're trying to make the decisions in their best interests and that's what we're doing here. I'm fine with what the other conferences are doing."

- The league is also sticking with its current division format. There has been some talk that the league could either realign, eliminate permanent crossover games or scrap divisions all together, with the top two teams playing in the ACC Championship Game (though this last change would require the NCAA to change its current legislation). Most coaches were pretty in favor of sticking with the status quo, but Pitt coach Paul Chryst did express some concern about only seeing teams from the other division once every six years.
"I hope we can address that as time goes on, too," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "I think right now we had to just make the decision of how many games, then you can start to look at if there's another way to do that, and there may be another way to do that."

- Jimbo Fisher also offered up an interesting idea in his chat with reporters Monday. He said he was in favor of the NCAA changing its rules to allow players five years of playing eligibility over five years, rather than the current four-in-five model (basically, letting guys play during their redshirt years). His main reasons for this were player safety and injury concerns, especially with the potential national champion now playing 15 games (12 + conference championship + two playoff games) in a season.
"Because at the end of the season, when those freshmen are ready to play and they can help you on special teams, or get ten reps a game, or take the pressure off a guy who's banged up, bruised up, and you can't play him because you're worried about redshirting," Fisher said. "I think the longer you go in these seasons, the more you have to look at those things for health issues and medical issues."
I think it's an interesting idea with very little apparent downside (Fisher noted that the best kids will still leave after three years and others will leave after they graduate in four). There doesn't seem to be much traction at an administrative level, but I'm interested to ask Chryst his thoughts on the idea.
For Pitt, this year, it would have meant being able to have freshmen offensive linemen like Aaron ReeseCarson Baker, etc. available late in the season when injuries struck without having to worry about burning redshirts.

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