The ACC’s braindead new primary/rotating partner two-step has been released, and the halfwits in charge have embraced the challenge of scheduling hoops in a football conference the way a Trekkie might embrace a supermodel. That is, with as much uncalled-for complexity and awkwardness as possible.
In the process, they’re doing all they can to destroy five decades of tradition. Look, I get that it’s a Brave New World, that it isn’t 1953 anymore, that football is money is king, and so on. What the league’s ADs don’t seem to quite grasp is that rivalries that have raged since Americans Liked Ike are marketing strengths that can be leveraged into all kinds of dollars here in the 21st Century. So now we get this “model” that pairs teams with permanent partners and rotating partners, and I gotta say, when I see people building around barn-burning historical rivalries like Wake Forest/Georgia Tech, well, let me tell you, I smell money.
There was an easier way. There were at least two easier ways, in fact, both of which came loaded with a decent amount of symmetry and workability. Let me lay them out briefly.
Option A: the 3-division model. The North has BC, Maryland, UVa and Va. Tech. The Central features the Tobacco Road core of the old ACC, the Big 4. The South: FSU, Miami, Clemson and Ga. Tech. 14-game schedule, play your own division home and away and everybody else once. Advantages – strong preservation of existing rivalries, 14-game schedule that allows teams to play a couple extra non-conference games (which can be big money these days – national TV, intersectional Sunday match-ups with other conference powers, etc.) Disadvantages – this makes the tournament a bit harder to structure, but hell, I can come up with a couple tourney concepts that would work great and be way simpler than the regular season idiocy they’re adopting.
Option B: a 2-division model. You could do this any number of ways, but again, you need to keep the Big 4 together. You’d also want to keep the two Florida schools together, you’d probably want to capitalize on the Big East baggage that BC and Va. Tech bring with them, Uva and Va Tech together is a natural, etc. Advantages: the ADs seem to want a 16-game schedule, and this gives you an easy structure for that. Disadvantages – you might wind up with travel complaints if you slot BC and the Florida schools together.
But it ain’t happening, and I suspect I know why. You know who probably doesn’t like these plans? Have a look at Duke’s primary dance partners. Uh-huh – there it is. This schedule is designed for people who think Duke/Maryland is a rivalry that you build a league around. Well, no doubt that Duke and the Terps have had some hellacious throwdowns in recent years, but I have to risk to pissing some folks off here: Duke/Maryland isn’t a rivalry. No, no it’s not. It has been a big game of late, but “rivalry” and “big game” aren’t the same thing.
You have enough big games over time and it can lead to a rivalry, but a real rivalry is a game that’s huge news even when neither team has done anything lately. Trust me – if neither Duke nor Maryland wins anything much in the next four years, the ratings-mongering nitwits in the home office are going to find themselves stuck with a locked-in prime-time placement of a series that’s really no big deal. Two years after Krzyzewski retires or leaves for the NBA you’re looking at the equivalent of Clemson/FSU here.
Duke/UNC, UNC/State, even Wake/UNC – those are games that are going to be a big deal no matter what the records are. We know this because it’s a lesson we’ve had 50 years to learn. Those rivalries aren’t going to burn out. They aren’t contingent on sustained success, and they can well withstand a few down years by one team or both.
I know this. Anybody who’s been part of a real rivalry knows it. But the suits who think that the future of the ACC is Duke vs. Maryland, they don’t know it, and we’re all going to pay the price for their stupidity.
What’s maddening is that you could actually satisfy the marketing weasels and the purists at the same time. Look at the two-division model – Wake, State, Duke, Carolina, Maryland, Ga. Tech. And if BC screams about the travel, point out that this isn’t the first time they’ve been in a conference with Miami.
It makes so much sense….