GREENVILLE - It won't become official until the ACC administration and faculty vote Thursday, but commissioner John Swofford's endorsement to stay at an eight-game conference slate almost certainly means there won't be a drastic change in scheduling.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, along with a few others in the league, got his way.
"You go nine, well, you can schedule yourself out of a chance to be in the (College Football Playoff) hunt pretty quick," Swinney said before Wednesday's Prowl and Growl social at Fluor Field. "So this gives us that flexibility to have great competition within our conference, and also be able to step out of conference and bring in a different flavor."
In the past, Swinney and FSU's Jimbo Fisher have been the most prominent flagbearers of saying eight is enough, primarily since both schools have permanent rivalries with SEC programs South Carolina and Florida.
Clemson also seeks to schedule one additional major-conference foe each year - Swinney calls it the 8-plus-2 format - to give the Tigers a filled-out roster of quality opponents. Clemson took on Auburn consecutively from 2010-12, is in the middle of a home-and-home with Georgia and will host Notre Dame in 2015.
During the past two years, Clemson has knocked off Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Ohio State.
"It's one thing to schedule those types of games, but you've got to win your fair share," Swinney said. "That's why we've been able to be nationally relevant.
"I like that flexibility of being able to continue to do that. If you'd gone to nine, that would have really limited us."
ACC opponents as non-conference games?
Swinney's downside of staying with eight conference games, while integrating Notre Dame as a non-conference partner for five league members per year, makes dates against certain foes fewer and farther between.
As an example, Clemson visited Virginia in 2013; the Tigers and Cavs won't rematch until 2020. ACC Coastal teams besides Georgia Tech, Clemson's cross-divisional partner, will go more than four years in between Clemson matchups for the foreseeable future.
"I would like for every guy that comes here to be able to play everybody in this league throughout their career," Swinney said.
Which is why Swinney is open to the notion of scheduling the likes of Miami, North Carolina or Virginia Tech as a non-conference opponent, which the ACC reportedly is considering.
"To look at your schedule and say, let's schedule them as one of those other games, the plus-two, that gives us the flexibility that we need," Swinney said. "To have the flexibility, and it wouldn't count as a conference game, I think that's a positive."
Clemson scores highly again in classroom
Once again ranking among the ACC's leaders in the NCAA's annually released Academic Progress Rate scores, Clemson's 983 score rated 16th nationally and tied with Georgia Tech (behind Duke) for second in the conference.
The Tigers' 2012-13 score actually dipped two points from the previous season, the first decrease in four years.
All 18 of Clemson's sports passed the NCAA's requirements to avoid sanctions, and six Tigers' teams produced perfect scores of 1000: men's and women's cross country, diving, women's soccer, women's tennis and volleyball.
"The APR metrics announced today show a great commitment by our coaches and academic staff to creating positive environments and experiences for our student-athletes both in the classroom and on the fields and courts of competition," Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said.
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