Clemson approached about neutral-site game in 2016

Enticing opportunities in Atlanta, Houston, Arlington, Texas, or maybe some other new city looking to make a splash could await Clemson a few years down the road.

With an open date on the football schedules in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich indicated the Tigers would strongly consider a neutral-site made-for-TV affair to fill the slate and increase program exposure as soon as three years away - or in, say, quarterback Deshaun Watson's third season with the Tigers.

"We've been approached by just about every one of the kickoff games to play," Radakovich told The Post and Courier on Wednesday before a Prowl and Growl tour stop aboard the Yorktown in Mount Pleasant. "So we'll monitor that very, very closely over the next couple of weeks to see if that's a match for us in 2016."

What kind of showdown might the Tigers be expecting?

Well, this is the assortment of big-time matchups to kick off the first college football Saturday of 2014: Alabama vs. West Virginia at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic (Atlanta), Florida State vs. Oklahoma State at the Cowboys Classic (Arlington) and LSU vs. Wisconsin at the Advocare Texas Kickoff (Houston).

All three recurring season-opening nationally televised events are held in NFL stadiums. And this year, they feature six programs who all appeared in a BCS game within the previous three seasons.

Clemson, of course, went to two Orange Bowls the previous three seasons.

The Tigers also wield the gift of schedule flexibility. With the ACC officially ruling it will stick with an eight-game conference schedule, Clemson can now look to secure that second Power 5 opponent it seeks - besides the annual South Carolina game - to battle in non-conference play each year starting in 2016.

"We do have one spot left," Radakovich said, "and now that we've gotten to the eight-game schedule, we will now begin really in earnest. Over the last week (associate athletic director of administration) Kyle Young and myself have begun to make some calls."

Clemson appeared in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic twice in the last six years, losing to Alabama in 2008 and beating Auburn in 2012 on opening weekend.

"I thought it was a great experience. Especially when you win it, it's even better," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. "I don't really get too involved until it gets to be something they really want me to (approve)."

The 2015 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic will feature ACC newcomer Louisville against Auburn, offering an ACC-SEC matchup in six of the event's first eight years. The ACC is 1-5 to date vs. the SEC at the Georgia Dome-hosted contest; Clemson's 26-19 defeat of Auburn is its league's lone victory.

Because Clemson strives to host seven games each fall at Memorial Stadium, Radakovich said 2016 and 2018 would be options for a neutral-site game - years in which the Gamecocks visit Death Valley.

For that upcoming three-year period, if Clemson did lock down a neutral-site matchup in an even year, a home-and-home with another major-conference foe outside the ACC would be the complementary scheduling piece. Clemson completed such a contract with Auburn in 2010-11 and finishes one with Georgia when it travels to Athens on Aug. 30.

Ideally for Radakovich, Clemson would host a non-conference game with a major opponent in 2017, when the Tigers close in Columbia against South Carolina.

"We have to make sure that we bring those three openings in 2016, 2017 and 2018 into a good circumstance," Radakovich said.

All along, Radakovich and Swinney were in favor of staying with eight ACC games specifically because of the South Carolina rivalry; with nine conference games, the Gamecocks and two other teams from lesser Division I conferences would have booked the schedule, thus dashing scheduling flexibility.

Those fears were squashed at last week's ACC spring meetings.

On whether other administrators around the league fought to push the ACC schedule to nine games, Radakovich said, "Let me put it this way: it wasn't a unanimous vote."

The other new debate cropping up: whether the ACC will remain in its current format of two divisions (Atlantic and Coastal), shuffle the deck any, or merge into one division of its current 14 football members.

"I think what will happen, now that we've settled in on the eight games, any discussion associated with whether we stay in divisions or go to one division, we'll have some options on the table, possibly," Radakovich said. "We'll begin to talk about that at our coming meetings."