ACC to do away with two-division structure, move to ‘3-5-5’ structure starting in 2023

By Dalton Coppola, Sports Editor

The NCAA decided to deregulate how conferences crowned their champions back in May, and the ACC is one of the first conferences to seize the opportunity and change its structure.

The ACC announced on Tuesday that the conference is doing away with its two-division format and moving to a “3-5-5” format. This entails each team having three permanent opponents that will be on the schedule each year, while playing the other 10 teams in the conference twice over a four year cycle. This format will take effect starting before the 2023 season.

Pitt’s permanent opponents are Virginia Tech, Boston College and Syracuse. The schools will alternate hosting one another each season.

With the elimination of divisions, the criteria to make the conference championship game has also changed. The two teams with the highest winning percentage over the course of the season will meet in the conference championship. This could create championship game matchups that were once impossible, such as Wake Forest taking on Clemson — two teams who currently play in the Atlantic Division. 

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said one of the reasons he’s looking forward to the new structure is that now players will have an opportunity to play each team.

“The future ACC football scheduling model provides significant enhancements for our schools and conference, with the most important being our student-athletes having the opportunity to play every school both home and away over a four-year period,” Phillips said. “We appreciate the thoughtful discussions within our membership, including the head football coaches and athletic directors. In the end, it was clear this model is in the best interest of our student-athletes, programs and fans, at this time.”

Since the conference expanded in 2013, Pitt has won two Coastal division titles — more than any other team over that stretch. Pitt will have one last chance to claim another division title in 2022 under the current structure. The Panthers are the fourth choice, according to oddsmakers, to win the ACC in 2022, just behind Clemson, NC State and Miami.

Pitt will kick off its season on Sept. 1 against the West Virginia Mountaineers.