Bank of America – The 2021 ACC Football Schedule: Notes and FAQs
Notes and FAQs about the making of the 2021 ACC Football Schedule
What is the ACC football scheduling format for the upcoming season?
The ACC returns to divisional play in 2021 with the Atlantic and Coastal Division champions scheduled to meet in the ACC Football Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 4 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. Each of the ACC’s 14 football programs will return to the divisions in which they competed prior to the modified 2020 season.
Where does Notre Dame fit into the picture for 2021?
Notre Dame will return to competing as a football independent and will play five games versus ACC teams, as it did prior to last fall’s adjustment due to the pandemic. The Fighting Irish open with a road game at Florida State on Sunday, Sept. 6. Notre Dame will also play road games at Virginia Tech on Oct. 9 and at Virginia on Nov. 13, while hosting North Carolina on Oct. 30, and Georgia Tech on Nov. 20.
Why was there no consideration to adopting a model similar to that of the adjusted 2020 season, in which the teams competed in one division, with the top two finishers in the standings then advancing the ACC Football Championship Game?
Per NCAA rules, conferences must either play their championship game between division winners or between the top two teams in the conference standings following full round-robin, regular-season competition among all members of the conference. The NCAA waived those parameters in 2020 due to pandemic, but the latter is not currently possible for the ACC during a “normal” year.
Why do we see a handful of “rematch” games in 2021 being played at the same sites as those of 2020 and/or 2019, as opposed to the traditional “home-and-home?”
The ACC’s athletics directors elected to play the 2021 season as originally constructed, with 2020 treated as an anomaly. As a result, there are some repeat site games.
While the 2021 schedule assumes a return to normalcy, could COVID-19 restrictions again factor in?
The return to a traditional schedule is contingent on national, state and local health guidelines allowing such competition to occur. The health, safety and well-being of our campus constituents is at the forefront of all ACC decisions and the league will continue to follow protocols as outlined in the current Medical Advisory Group Report
What are some key parameters that must be considered when building the ACC schedule?
Per the ACC Manual:
– Effective as of the 2018 season, no conference team shall play more than one conference game in a given season with its opponent having an uneven open date placement the preceding week.
– No more than two conference road games may be scheduled consecutively (weeks) by the conference office. A school may have a non-conference away game as a third consecutive game, although the conference office will avoid as much as possible.
– No more than three home conference games may be scheduled consecutively (weeks) by the conference office. A school may have a non-conference home game as a fourth consecutive game, although the conference office will avoid that as much as possible.
– Best efforts will be made by the conference office to accommodate one special scheduling request for one weekend per year (e.g. away or open on Fall Break, religious holiday) for each institution. No more than three total special scheduling requests may be submitted annually per institution. Each school scheduling request must be rank-ordered in terms of priority. No school scheduling requests can impact conference game on-field football equity issues other than home week/away week/open date requests.
– For Thursday night games, the conference shall make best efforts for both schools to have at least seven days between games prior to a Thursday night game. If both schools do not have such rest, then both schools must have the same amount of rest (e.g. a short week game, unless waived by a school). For short week games, the conference shall make best efforts for both teams to be at home the previous week. If this is not possible, the team that is the visitor in the Thursday night short week game shall be at home the week before and the conference will make best efforts for the team which will be home on the Thursday night short week game to have traveled the previous week.
How successful was the ACC in granting school scheduling requests for 2021?
The conference received 33 school requests and was able to accommodate 22 (67%). However, 85% of the schools’ No. 1 requests were accommodated.
What are examples of some school requests?
One school notified the Conference it could not play at home in a particular week due to the strong possibility of booking “a major touring act” for its venue, and in another case a professional sports team is scheduled to host a night game during a particular week. High school state championship games occupy certain shared-use venues during week 13; if the ACC game cannot be played on the Friday preceding those high school games, it is best for that ACC team to be away so as to avoid any risk of a field being unplayable. This reality impacts the matchups each year in week 13.
We’re asked every year about the computer models and trial runs that go into building the ACC schedule. What was the count this year?
While we rely on the human element quite a bit in building our football schedule, we do use computer models to guide us as to what may be possible. Approximately 200 versions of this year’s schedule were generated, of which approximately 75 were valid and approximately 30 were compliant within our scheduling parameters.
How successful was the ACC this year in allotting as many open dates as possible toward the middle of the season?
Week six is the start of the three-week span in which we try to leave as many open dates as possible. This year, 11 of 14 open weeks were slotted in weeks 6-7-8, which works out to a league-wide average open date placement of 7.07, almost spot on our desired target of 7.0. Complicating the location of open dates is the ACC scheduling parameter created in time for the 2018 season which requires that no conference team shall play more than one conference games in a given season with their opponent having an uneven open date placement the preceding week. In this schedule, seven teams have “disadvantageous” rest leading into a conference game, but six of the seven have the somewhat off-setting advantage of hosting that matchup.
Granting equal rest for teams facing games on “short weeks” has been another goal. How successfully was that addressed for 2021?
Thanks to great cooperation from ESPN, we were able to limit five-day short-rest Thursday games to just three occurrences. With the 2021 schedule calendar being a one open-date season, short-rest Thursdays are difficult to avoid. There has been discussion nationally about modifying the annual playing schedule calendar to allow for two open dates every season, but doing so would require pre-season camps to start one week earlier, infringing upon the student-athletes’ break between academic sessions.
When North Carolina and Virginia Tech meet in Blacksburg on Sept. 2 or 3 (Thursday or Friday), they will continue the recent trend of at least one conference game during opening weekend.
This game was actually arranged several years ago during a long-term schedule planning session among all 14 institutions and the ACC. This was done once both schools determined they would not be able to fill that date with a non-conference game. The exact date of that game (Sept. 2 or 3) will be announced around the first of March.
How does the ACC determine where to place the open date on each team’s schedule?
In addition to our goal of placing open dates in weeks six through eight, having open dates fall before non-conference opponents helps the ACC accommodate its scheduling parameter limiting open date placement before conference games. No consideration is given to the particular non-conference team affected. For schools that open the year with four consecutive non-conference games, open weeks must be placed prior to a conference opponent. That is the case this year for Boston College, Duke, Miami, Pitt and Syracuse.
How much input do the ACC member schools have in building their schedules?
The ACC takes the previously schedule requests into consideration where feasible, but other than confirming home date venue availability, that is their only input during the schedule development process. Final schedules are not submitted to schools for their review, but every effort is made to be as fair and equitable as possible.
For the second time in three years, Wake Forest and North Carolina will meet in a non-conference game. Is there the sense that any other schools in the league might be interested in pursuing a similar arrangement?
At this time, that seems to be something that is unique to those two institutions. This year’s Wake Forest at North Carolina non-conference game was originally scheduled for week four but moving the game to week 10 helped the ACC deliver a better overall schedule. Both UNC and Wake Forest were more than willing to adjust that game date for the greater good. In doing so, by coincidence, Wake Forest will play their “Big Four” opponents in consecutive weeks.
The UNC-Virginia Tech game is just one highlight of the Labor Day opening weekend. Games are scheduled five consecutive nights (Thursday through Monday), including ACC-SEC matchups in Atlanta and Charlotte, and Notre Dame at Florida State on Sunday.
It is hard to say if it is the “most” intriguing opening weekend in ACC football history, because Labor Day weekend has consistently produced marquee matchups for ACC teams. The conference has held the Labor Day Monday night matchup for more than a decade, and with Sunday night now in the mix the league quite likely will play the prime time national game on five consecutive dates.
Can fans expect to learn kickoff times for the first three weekends again this spring?
Barring any unforeseen issues, game times for the first three weekends, as well as our non-Saturday games, should be finalized and released in mid-May.
Bank of America – The 2021 ACC Football Schedule: Notes and FAQs
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