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Boston College football goes back to the future with new ACC alignment

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The Atlantic Coast Conference’s new scheduling model looks like the Big East revisited for Boston College.

The new model, which was announced on Tuesday and will be implemented in 2023, is based on a 3-5-5 structure for the 14 programs that eliminates the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. Each team will have three primary opponents and face the 10 other teams twice in a four-year cycle, once at home and once on the road.

Blake James will assume the duties of athletic director at BC on July 1, but he spent the last nine football seasons in the same capacity at Miami. James believes the realignment away from divisional play is a forward-thinking concept.

“For the long term well being for ACC football this will prove to be a real win,” said James. “It will help develop a greater understanding and appreciation for all the different schools in the ACC and hopefully drive some rivalries that maybe are not up to the level of others in the conference.

“For the student athletes it’s a win because you see different campuses and for the fans to see a lot of different teams.”

BC has been grouped with Miami, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, four programs that formed the nucleus of the Big East football conference at the turn of the century. Regional rivalries make for great theater on the field and good box office for the ACC Network.

“I think it is great and obviously Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Miami are three schools we have a long history with and they have all had great teams over time,” said James. “When you look at it, there are rivalries across the conference that were protected and supported through this process.

“I don’t know all the ins and outs that have gotten us this far but I do know rivalries was a big part of that.”

BC currently plays in the Atlantic Division with perennial powers Clemson and Florida State, while its permanent crossover opponent is Virginia Tech. The Eagles and the Hokies were scheduled to play every year because of their past association in the Big East.

Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) leaps over Florida State linebacker DJ Lundy (46) in pursuit of a first down during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) leaps over Florida State linebacker DJ Lundy (46) in pursuit of a first down during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

The ACC was forced to restructure in 2020 due to the ongoing global pandemic. The member schools agreed to eliminate the divisions and play a 10-game conference schedule with one non-league opponent. The Jeff Hafley era at The Heights began with a road win against Duke on Sept. 19.

“We got the chance to see what it would look like,” said James. “I would say there was a lot of conversation of going to that model before (2020) and evaluate what would make the most sense for us. But obviously the year of COVID and the pandemic, we felt that was what would work best and it worked out well. I would say it (2020) was in conversation as that group moved this forward to the vote today.”

BC was adversely impacted by the pandemic altered schedule because the Eagles had to play Clemson at Memorial Stadium (a.k.a. Death Valley) three years in a row (2019-2021). The same thing happened with Syracuse, which is BC’s rivalry week opponent.

The wild card in the equation is Notre Dame, which is a member of the ACC in all sports but football (Independent) and men’s and women’s ice hockey (Big 10). BC plays at Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 19 before closing out the season at home against Syracuse.

The Fighting Irish have annually scheduled five ACC teams. Notre Dame football officially joined the ACC for one season in 2020, when the Irish lost to Clemson 34-10 in the championship game. No. 5 Notre Dame beat No. 3 Clemson 47-40 in the regular season.

“The role of Notre Dame doesn’t change at this point,” said James.

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