When the ACC rolled out a “10-plus-one” schedule for the 2020 season, it seemed pretty clear what the goal with that extra game was. Four ACC programs play annual rivalry games against SEC football teams, including league powers Clemson (vs. South Carolina) and Florida State (vs. Florida).
Those rivalries are among the biggest in college football. Clemson and South Carolina have played every year since 1909. Florida and Florida State are both national powers more often than not. Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville also play to close the season, and are significant games for fans of those programs.
It seemed likely that the SEC would follow suit. Instead, the league will play a conference-only slate this fall, with each team playing 10 SEC football games, and none against other leagues. That means the cancellation of those four major crossover rivalries, as well as big non-conference games like LSU vs. Texas and Arkansas vs. Notre Dame.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford says he’s disappointed by the loss of those rivalry games against SEC football schools for 2020. He appeared on ACC Network’s Packer And Durham to discuss college football matters. Ultimately, he says, it was the SEC’s decision to make.
“We took a different route as a conference… We were and are very comfortable will that route.”
Hear from Commissioner Swofford on select rivalry games that won't be played this season.pic.twitter.com/WxTVnnekwm
— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) July 31, 2020
“Well, I was disappointed, but I would quickly add I think that’s the SEC’s decision to make,” Swofford said during the appearance. “We took a different route as a conference and we were and are very comfortable with that route. We took a path that would have allowed those games to happen. So, those rivalry games that you were speaking of are huge in the Southeast and huge in those respective states and really, really big nationally from that standpoint as well. So you hate to see those disrupted.”
For a while, there was a sense that at least some of the Power Five leagues would work together to try and protect some major rivalry games and other non-conference matchups. While Swofford contends that the leagues have had good communication, we very well may have a situation where each of the P5s start on a different weekend this fall. For whatever discussions they’ve had, it seems like they’re all doing their own thing, for better or worse.
“I’m not surprised that we didn’t end up at exactly the same place. We’re ending up in similar places but not exactly the same place. And that’s OK. The communication has been excellent. Greg (Sankey, SEC commissioner) and I speak often, as we speak with the other conference as well. It took them a good while for them to be comfortable to make a decision just as it did us. Some of us wanted to wait a little longer than others in order to have more information when we tried to finalize a decision and the Big Ten and the PAC-12 went a little earlier.
“But we’re all dealing with the same set of circumstances in a sense. My disappointment isn’t really a criticism of the SEC, but it’s just a disappointment that those are quality games that from our standpoint could have been played but now will not be played.”
Swofford said that he believes the schools will all finalize their non-conference games for the upcoming year soon. Per the new league protocols, those games must be played at home or in schools’ home states, and opposing programs must “meet the medical protocol requirements as agreed upon by the ACC.”