Inside the ACC’s refusal to expand the College Rugby Round amid concerns about bigger issues

When ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said last week that his coaches were unanimously against expanding the College Football Playoff “at this time,” he may have downplayed the conference’s view.

ACC sources have described to CBS Sports the league’s deep concern about tripling the pitch from four to 12 teams – at least on the current 12-year contract that expires after season five 2025. Because of that shift, CFP expansion will likely die out for at least the next four years.

ACC coaches and officials believe college athletics – football in particular – must overcome many other complications as it tries to reform and deregulate before setting its sights on post-season expansion. .

Amid COVID-19 issues and listing limitations, the ACC last fall requested NCAA Football The Oversight Committee bails out the rule maintaining eligibility for any player who participates in fewer than five games during the regular season. During the post-season period, ACC coaches said they have been asked to apply for waivers on individual cases for players whose eligibility will be affected.

According to Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson, the current chairman of the league’s principal football coaching staff, none of those waivers have been approved.

Clawson said some ACC schools are “unlikely they’ll be able to practice in the spring” as rosters drop due to a combination of COVID-19, trauma, graduation, opt-out and transit exit.

The average ACC program has lost 10.4 players to its gates since the start of the last 2020 season, according to tracker 247Sports. Don’t know how that compares to other leagues.

ACC coaches are concerned that the level of disturbance is unsustainable with an annual cap of 25 applicants in recruitment and a total of 85 players receiving scholarships. In 2020, ranked athletes are granted an additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19. As such, coaches don’t have to strictly adhere to the 85-person limit by 2022; however, they must find a way to reduce their roster to 85 before the 2023 season.

“How the hell did we get to 85?” Clawson, who has been named to the board of directors of the American Football Coaches Association. “Our list is getting thinner and thinner. We have less control and the NCAA doesn’t give us relief.

“What they did was very good at opening the outlet valve. And they didn’t help us at all with the inflow valve.”

Expanding the knockout round to 12 teams would create the possibility of at least one team playing 17 games in a season. That’s still not the beginning with ACC coaches because of health and safety concerns. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney – and several of his players – hit the lowest record since last summer against the bracket expansion.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think 12 teams are good enough [to compete for the national championship each year]”Swinney said in July 2021.

ACC Pittsburgh champion and Wake Forest runner-up, each won 11 games, marking their best season in years. If a 12-team pool exists, then at least both shows are in the conversation. Instead, the ACC is not represented in the CFP.

Still …

“We all came up with our team, and you would think the kids at Wake Forest would want it expanded,” Clawson said. “They said, ‘Coach, how many games do we have to play?'”

All of that adds up to the ACC having problems with prioritization.

Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi is among the ACC coaches frustrated by the lack of relief to deal with depleted teams. The NCAA’s website states the 15 voting members of the oversight committee “will prioritize enhancing the educational experience for student-athletes.” [academically and athletically]and in so doing, foster student-athlete personal growth and leadership development. “

“Nobody saw the injury reports that we saw,” Narduzzi told CBS Sports. “Nobody knows how these kids come out onto the pitch for their 13th or 14th game of the season and how their bodies really feel. If we can do this, get into 12 teams, they how about we go from 85 scholarships to 90?”

The coaches did not have a vote in the expansion, but their opinions were evaluated by each conference when the open review tournaments began last summer.

The Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC are likely to participate in the CFP expansion starting with the 2024 season. However, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has publicly stated that his conference would also be fine if the league were to play. successful when receiving multiple bids to field four teams.

The latest CFP meetings were held earlier this month with conference commissioners and university presidents identifying the ACC and Big Ten as conferences most resistant to expansion before the current TV contract. at expiration after the 2025 season.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said a vote on January 10 on the expansion showed support but disagreement from his colleagues. Meeting in executive session that day, the CFP Board of Trustees (school principals) took no action to approve the expansion based on the votes of the trustees.

Now we know why, at least as far as ACC is concerned.

“ACC coaches, we all sat on the Zoom call together,” said Narduzzi, who is entering his eighth season with the Panthers in 2022. “We are all unanimous in this decision. We all want to do it, but we want to do it at the right time. We hope it happens soon.

“It’s not that we want to be the bad guys, but until we make this game better and get it back where there’s some control, [we can’t support expansion]. “

The expansion of the knockout stages further highlights the gap between the for-profit business of college football and whatever remains of the educational mission of college sports of the era. By voting against the expansion in the current 12-year CFP contract with ESPN, the ACC will effectively reject the reported $450 million rights fee increase from ESPN during the final years of the deal.

But waiting four years and bringing the contract to the open market could bring in even more revenue for the conference. The commissioners had all but decided that, if CFP contracts were to come to market after the 2025 season, many carriers would televised matches, duplicating post-season TV rights deals that most Most major professional sports and college basketball hold.

“It’s the right time [to expand]”Pittsburgh AD Heather Lyke said.” If you do it earlier, it’s about the money. After four years, you need to reevaluate it. “

Every conference is money driven. In times of financial crisis, that’s what college sports do, whether that means one more championship game (1992), a 12th regular game (2002) or multiple teams. than on NCAA Tournament (2011).

The ACC is in the midst of its own TV rights deal with ESPN and is locked down to 2036. Unless they add Notre Dame as a member, their payout in that deal – reportedly $17 million annually for each school – remains the same.

Fold all of that into the educational component, especially in some ACC schools. Two days after Wake Forest played that ACC Championship Game, the finals began at the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, bucolic campus.

“Don’t you think our kids have been dragging all night to finish their homework?” Clawson asked.

The issue of playoff entry into the December finals was resolved when CFP was introduced eight years ago. Essentially, those in power changed their phase, allowing preparation for an intrusive CFP. In a 12-team knockout, an extra layer of first-round games means CFP will kick off the second or third week in December.

For some, it’s inevitable that waiting for the NCAA to clear up will delay their action.

“You either want to expand or you don’t,” said one FBS commissioner who supported the expansion.

For the first time in the extended discussion, the framework staying the same four years from now has become a legitimate possibility. That’s widely different between conferences.

“If we can’t make a decision because of uncertainty, we never make a decision because every day is uncertain,” said Sankey, one of four on the CFP subcommittee that proposed the expansion to know.

Clawson said the ACC’s concerns could be addressed in an extension four years from now.

If an extremely complex college model can be streamlined, it will begin this week with the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis. A new, rewritten constitution is expected to be ratified to give more power to districts and schools.

Ultimately, an already dwindling NCAA would cede deregulation to a complex structure and give more powers to members.

“Let’s come up with a model where student-athletes feel that their health and well-being and safety have been considered,” says Clawson. “Give us a way to curate a list. You look at the historical restrictions on scholarships. We had fewer scholarships and more games and now there are more ways for kids to have access to scholarships. can leave.

“To portray this that we are completely against expansion is incorrect. There are so many other problems in college football.”

Phillips conducted a conference call with media last Friday to explain his league’s stance. The commissioner cited athlete welfare, the NCAA’s chaotic landscape, and even the number of teams that will take part in FBS. He called for a “365-day review” of the sport to take precedence over expanding the bracket at this time.

The fact that his coaches have been locked out against the playoff expansion for two years is surprising. The ACC played in the first seven CFPs with Clemson winning the national championships in 2016 and 2018. ACC champions Pittsburgh will have their most winning season in 40 years and their first convention title in 11 years. As suggested by the commissioners in June, a 12-team playoff would guarantee the Panthers a foothold as one of the six highest-ranked congress champions.

Still …

“Any coach who says they support team 12[-team expansion] in college football… not interested in college football, in my opinion,” Narduzzi said.

Narduzzi was among a group of coaches around the country who were outraged that name rights, image and similar abilities and transfer portals had transformed not only the game but their jobs. The three year old portal has pretty much transformed into a completely free agency. Coaches are not the only ones concerned that the NIL has focused on enticing and buying players.

“Every coach I spoke to from Pat Fitzgerald in the Big Ten to the SEC, they all had the same mindset,” Narduzzi said. “‘This is confusing. What are we doing? What are we doing with our expertise? What are we doing with college football?”

“We all want to be in the playoffs, but until we get answers to these other issues… it just keeps making the game worse.”

In the 12-team pool, the average teams will play less than one extra game per season on average. For example, the four losers in the first round will play the same number of games as if they were playing in a bowl.

“I have no regrets,” Narduzzi said. “We knew, in Pittsburgh, we would have a chance to be in the playoffs. We wanted that, but it’s not a good thing for Pittsburgh or Pat Narduzzi. It’s a good thing for football.” Inside the ACC’s refusal to expand the College Rugby Round amid concerns about bigger issues

Charles Jones

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