ACC expansion: Watered-down rivalries and random divisions

February 9, 2012

Remember all the great moments from the Wake Forest-N.C. State rivalry? Neither do we.

When the ACC raided the Big East a few years ago in a desperate attempt to become a football power, it ended one of the things that I used to love about the conference — every team played every other team once a year in football and twice in basketball.

I especially miss the double round-robin in basketball. The added familiarity with opponents better prepared ACC teams for March Madness, and it made conference rivalries stronger. If N.C. State lost its first game against one of the Big 4, I always knew there would be a rematch.

With the expansion to 12 teams, it was bad enough that N.C. State was no longer guaranteed to play Duke twice in basketball (or at all in football). With the conference growing to 14 in a year or two, it was inevitable that more rivals would play each other less frequently.

Under the new scheduling format announced last week, each basketball team gets one primary rival to play in a home-and-home every year. In N.C. State’s case, it’s Wake Forest. No offense to the Deacons, but the one home game that Wolfpackers care about above all others is against Carolina. Once every three years, the Tar Heels won’t have to come to Raleigh.

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Do you know your enemy?

November 27, 2009

When I was a freshman at N.C. State, I quickly learned that I needed to know four words in the fight song above all others. I could be forgiven for not knowing the rest as long as I shouted “Go to Hell, Carolina!” at the top of my lungs. (The actual words to the song are “Come over the hill, Caroline,” but really, what fun is that?)

For Wolfpack fans, it’s crystal clear that North Carolina is their rival. But Sports Illustrated has a survey out that shows every fan base in the ACC doesn’t have the same clarity, at least when it comes to figuring out who’s their main in-conference rival.

The SI survey covered every I-A conference in the country. Andy Staples wrote a summary of its results, including this description of how it came about:

In October, we asked college football fans of all stripes to tell us about themselves. We received 33,144 responses to questions such as “What is your favorite team?” and “How closely do you follow recruiting?” We received responses from fans of all 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and everyone’s answers counted the same — whether they came from Ohio State fans (the most, with 2,004 responses) or Florida Atlantic fans (the fewest, with four responses).

That last sentence tells me this wasn’t the most scientific survey, but that doesn’t make the data for the ACC any less interesting. Here’s how fans from each school answered the question “What is your biggest conference rival?”:

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