Formatting league still up for discussion

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The NCAA has informally rejected the Atlantic Coast
Conference's bid to stage a football championship game with 11 teams,
essentially ruling out a lucrative title game in 2004, Clemson
athletic director Terry Don Phillips said Tuesday.

The ACC filed a waiver in July asking that leagues with 10 teams be
allowed to play conference title games. A final vote by the NCAA's
management council, a 49-member group with representatives from all
the Division I-A conferences, has been expected to come in April.

"We got back word that the championship committee was
overwhelmingly against waiving the current rule," Phillips said.
"Now I haven't seen anything in writing on that. I think (adding a
12th team) would be where we need to go, if in fact we want the
championship game."

The ACC's original expansion plan called for 12 teams, in part to
meet the 12-team requirement to stage a championship game. But only
Miami and Virginia Tech were approved by the ACC presidents, creating
the odd number of 11 teams next season.

Three conferences -- the SEC, Big 12 and Mid-American -- are
authorized to hold league championship games. ACC commissioner John
Swofford has estimated such a game would generate between $7 million and $10
million to the conference.

"It's disappointing. I'd like to have it," Phillips said. "I
think the divisional play enhances the league."

Without a championship game, multiple ACC teams next season could
tie for the league title without having played because the round-robin
scheduling format will be gone. In such cases, the Bowl Championship
Series rankings would probably determine the ACC's automatic
representative for one of the four lucrative bowl games.

"That may be what we have to live with," Phillips said. "If you
have a good, solid non-conference schedule that helps you in the
computer ratings, that's how you're going to" win a tiebreaker in the
ACC standings.

Football and men's basketball schedules could be finalized when the
ACC's nine current athletics directors join the Miami and Virginia
Tech ADs for meetings Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in Charlottesville, Va.

By not having a football championship game, Phillips said, the
ACC's best option is to follow the Big Ten model and not separate into
divisions. The ACC has discussed models based on a two-year schedule
that could be used interchangeably in a Big Ten model or a divisional
format, if a 12th team is added.

In the Big Ten model, each school would still have eight conference games per season. There would be an eight-year cycle before every team
would play the entire conference, Phillips said.

Each school would have two permanent rivals it would play each
season. Phillips said Clemson's rivals, for instance, would probably
be Georgia Tech and either Miami or Florida State -- both national
powerhouses currently ranked No. 2 and 6, respectively, in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' and AP media polls.

"We're going to ask our [Clemson fans] to step up and do some big
things, and I think it should be expected that we step up and do some
big things," Phillips said. "We need to compete, and if that's the
way it shakes out, then we need to do what's necessary to compete at
that level."

The ACC has not ruled out having unbalanced football divisions
consisting of six and five teams, although that format was more
preferable with a title game, Phillips said.

Another issue is how the traditional basketball schedules will be
affected. The ACC men's basketball coaches want to eliminate the
double-round robin and stay with a 16-game conference schedule, ACC
associate commissioner Fred Barakat told reporters two weeks ago. All
11 teams will play in the ACC tournament, with the top five teams
earning first-round byes.

Maintaining the double-round robin would mean schools would play 20
of their 27 games inside the conference. A 16-game ACC schedule would
give schools more flexibility to schedule non-conference games against
marquee opponents or weaker teams to gain victories.

"The 16-game schedule for schools that are working to build their
program would be more preferable because you don't have to play
everybody in the double round-robin each year," Phillips said. "But
from a television perspective, certainly the 20-game schedule is
tremendous inventory for the networks. There's a whole lot of
discussion that has to go on with that issue."

As for adding a 12th member, which would help solve many of these
issues, Phillips said he knows of no ongoing discussions.

Boston College and Syracuse were rejected by the ACC near the end
of the expansion process last summer.

"I think people continue to have affinity [for Boston College],"
Phillips said. "I don't know how they feel about us after what's
happened. To me, that would be the larger question. If I'm Boston
College, I'm not sure how warm and fuzzy I'd feel about things."

This story appeared in the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail.