The Atlantic Coast Conference became the latest to shift its 2020 plans, as ACC football will shift to a 11-game slate consisting of ten conference games and one non-conference game amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, Notre Dame will participate as a conference member for the fall – a unique moment in the long-independent program’s history.
Trailing the Pac-12 and Big-10 decisions to go conference-only by a few weeks, ACC football’s call will preserve the ability of conference schools like Clemson and Florida State to maintain at least one rivalry game against local SEC foes. Olympic sports will go conference-only and play minimal schedules as part of the process for trying to keep athletes safe amid the coronavirus.
“Today’s decision was made after months of thoughtful planning by numerous individuals throughout the conference,” ACC 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.”
Notre Dame will see the most dramatic shift in its schedule due to its joining up for the fall – though its athletic department is already a member of the ACC for all other sports. The team already had six ACC programs on its schedule, with Arkansas, Navy and Western Michigan remaining on its non-conference slate.
“We’re excited about the opportunity the ACC has provided for our football program,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “We look forward to announcing our full schedule in the near future.”
As a part of the shift, the non-conference games must take place in the ACC football program’s home state. The teams will play their 11 games over a 13-week schedule, with the ACC championship scheduled for either December 12 or 19th in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the league is dropping its divisional system for the year, the two teams with the best winning percentage will participate in the league final. All schools – including Notre Dame – would be eligible for the league’s berth in the Orange Bowl (assuming they are not selected for the College Football Playoff should those occur).
Perhaps most impacted by the decision is the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, which will see all three of its scheduled games impacted, as Florida State, Virginia and North Carolina would all be barred from playing non-conference games in Georgia by the schedule changes.
Shortly after announcing the change, the league shared its planned conference schedule:
The 2020 Football Schedule Model has been announced.
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) July 29, 2020