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ACC keeps eight-game schedule

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference will remain at eight league games, commissioner John Swofford said Monday from the ACC's spring meetings.

The league's athletic directors voted to remain at eight conference games Monday. It's just a formality but the league's faculty athletic representatives will officially approve it on Thursday.

Besides remaining at eight conference games, Swofford said starting in 2017 ACC teams must annually play at least one nonconference game against a team from a power five conference.

The ACC already has a scheduling agreement where five league teams will play Notre Dame annually. Those games would count toward teams' nonconference power five commitment.

The ACC joins the SEC as the only power five conferences to play eight league games. The Pac-12 and Big 12 each play nine league games and the Big Ten is moving to nine league games.

Stanford coach David Shaw criticized the SEC's recent decision to stay at eight league games.

"Don't back down from playing your own conference," Shaw said two weeks ago. "It's one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don't back down from playing your own conference."

Swofford said it matters who the eight- or nine-game league schedules are against to determine how difficult the schedule is. Swofford added that his only concern is for the ACC and not what other leagues are doing.

"You tell me us playing eight conference games and (nonconference games against) Florida, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame is not tougher than them playing nine conference game?" Fisher said. "I don't buy that at all."

Fisher also referenced the strength of the ACC by comparing the number of players selected in last week's NFL draft. "Look at the numbers," he said.

The SEC had 49 players selected in the NFL draft, followed by the ACC with 42 and Pac-12 with 34.

The ACC's new mandate requiring at least one power five conference nonconference opponent probably won't have much of an impact on future schedules. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville already have rivalry games against SEC in-state rivals each year. Last year, Duke and NC State were the only ACC teams that did not play a nonconference team from a power five conference.

The ACC's decision to remain at eight games is "a non-factor" from the television perspective, said Burke Magnus, ESPN's senior vice president of programming acquisitions.

"There are benefits and drawbacks to both," Magnus said. "Eight gives you a slightly higher total number of games and nine gives you more intra-conference games but a smaller total number of games overall.

"It is really a wash either way."

Swofford said it would be up to individual institutions to determine if it wanted to schedule future games against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.

"It's good for college football," said Fisher, whose Seminoles play The Citadel on Sept. 6. "It gives you David and Goliath."

Swofford added that the league hadn't been determined if independents BYU and Army (current independent Navy joins the American in 2015) would count toward the nonconference power five commitment.

There had been growing momentum in recent months toward moving to nine conference games, as athletic directors began to rethink their options with the upcoming College Football Playoff as well as imbalanced division crossover slates. The vote ended 8-6 in favor of staying at eight games. All the league needs is a simple majority to make its decisions.

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