Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY
Published 5:13 p.m. ET July 29, 2020 | Updated 6:39 p.m. ET July 29, 2020
SportsPulse: Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg discuss if there will be college football this fall. As Wolken put its, all it takes is one bad outcome due to the pandemic to send the sport into chaos.
The ACC will allow fall sports, including football, to begin competition the week starting Sept. 7 “if public health guidance allows” and will add longtime independent Notre Dame as a full member for the 2020 football season, the conference said Wednesday.
“Today’s decision was made after months of thoughtful planning by numerous individuals throughout the conference,” commissioner John Swofford said in a statement.
“The Board’s decision presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition. Our institutions are committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate the return in a safe and responsible manner. We recognize that we may need to be nimble and make adjustments in the future. We will be as prepared as possible should that need arise.”
The ACC becomes the third Power Five conference to announce changes to the fall athletics schedule in the wake of ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled all non-conference games in football to allow for greater scheduling flexibility and to potentially streamline testing and contact tracing protocols.
Unlike the Big Ten and Pac-12, the ACC will allow for one non-conference game along with 10 games against league competition. The games will be played over a 13-week season with two open dates. All ACC teams will compete in one division rather than the traditional split between the Atlantic and Coastal divisions, while the one non-league game “must be played in the home state of the ACC institution.”
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Due to the lack of divisions, the ACC championship game — scheduled for either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 in the customary location of Charlotte, North Carolina — will pit the two teams with the best winning percentage in conference games.
Notre Dame, which is an ACC member in sports other than football, will play a 10-game league schedule, giving the ACC 15 members, and be eligible for the conference championship game. In addition, Notre Dame’s home games, broadcast by NBC, will be part of the league’s television revenue for the 2020 season and be shared equally among all 15 schools.
Notre Dame has never been a member of a conference. The Irish are scheduled to play Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse at home, and face Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest on the road.
The guidelines on non-conference games will allow several ACC teams to maintain meaningful rivalry games against in-state competition, such as Clemson and South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Georgia, and Louisville and Kentucky. Barring an exception, the rule would prevent Notre Dame from facing a road non-conference opponent such as Navy, since that game is scheduled to be held on the Midshipmen’s home field in Annapolis, Maryland.
The non-conference rule will impact neutral-site games with significant payouts. If the school had met ticket-purchase requirements, Virginia would have earned $4 million for its matchup against Georgia in Atlanta, while under the same criteria Georgia would made $4.25 million. Meeting ticket requirements would’ve made North Carolina $3 million for its game against Auburn, also held in Atlanta, and Auburn $5 million.
The SEC and Big 12 have yet to announce their scheduling plans for the football season. Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec told the Austin American-Statesman that Big 12 presidents favor a full 12-game season.
Other ACC fall sports, including men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball, can begin on Sept. 10. Teams will play a conference schedule “that meets the NCAA minimum amount of games,” the league said, and “additional games against conference opponents or non-conference opponents are at the respective school’s discretion.”
Some winter and spring sports, such as swimming and diving and indoor track and field, won’t begin competition until at least Sept. 10. All ACC teams may continue to practice based on their school guidelines.
“Today’s announcement outlines a specific path for ACC fall sports to return to intercollegiate athletic competition using comprehensive protocols put forward by our ACC Medical Advisory Group,” said Syracuse University chancellor Kent Syverud, the Chair of the ACC Board of Directors.
“As a league, we understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information evolves in conjunction with local and state health guidelines.”