The Atlantic Coast Conference announced its scheduling plan for football and other fall sports on Wednesday. All ACC-member schools will face league opponents almost exclusively in the 2020 football season due to COVID-19. Each of the 15 conference members and Notre Dame will play an ACC schedule of 10 games over 13 weeks, with one non-conference game allowed per team.
Starting as early as Sept. 7, Miami’s home slate will include Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia. The Canes will travel to Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. The regular season will run until Dec. 5 and the conference championship game will be held in Charlotte, NC on either Dec. 12 or 19, with the top two teams by conference record getting invitations. There will be no divisions within the conference.
“As we look ahead to the fall, the safety of our students, staff and overall campus community continues to be our top priority,” said Kent Syverud, Chancellor of Syracuse University and the Chair of the ACC Board of Directors. “Today’s announcement outlines a specific path for ACC fall sports to return to intercollegiate athletic competition using comprehensive protocols put forward by our ACC Medical Advisory Group. As a league, we understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information evolves in conjunction with local and state health guidelines.”
“Today’s decision was made after months of thoughtful planning by numerous individuals throughout the conference,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The Board’s decision presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition. Our institutions are committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate the return in a safe and responsible manner. We recognize that we may need to be nimble and make adjustments in the future. We will be as prepared as possible should that need arise.”
The two marquee matchups for the Canes include the rivalry game against FSU at home and a road tilt at national power Clemson. While Miami has won three straight vs the Seminoles, the Tigers have had their way with the Canes in each of their last two recent matchups, including a 38-3 result in the 2017 conference title game.
Notre Dame’s conference inclusion in 2020 is significant, given the university has historically been an independent in football, while being an ACC member in most other sports. The school’s games broadcast on NBC under their national broadcast deal will be included in the conference’s agreement that all 15 schools will split media revenues.
The Hurricanes had been scheduled to open the season against the Temple Owls at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 5, with other non-league contests scheduled for Sept. 12 against Wagner at home, Sept. 17 against Alabama-Birmingham and Sept. 26 at Michigan State. The matchup at MSU was already in doubt before the ACC’s formal announcement, as the Spartans’ Big Ten Conference cancelled all non-conference activity.
The announcement also includes details about the conference’s plan for non-revenue fall athletics. Women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and cross country may start no earlier than Sept. 10, with conference championship events being held in late October and November.
Now that it’s clearer that UM will have at least five home games, the next question may be about fan attendance. There has been no official determination about fans at these games, with that possibility being dependent on a number of outside factors.
While UM President Julio Frenk has repeatedly announced his anticipation that Hurricanes football will take place without fans in 2020, the program’s home stadium may be a safer place to welcome spectators than almost any other stadium in the country.
As of July 9, the Hard Rock Stadium received star accreditation from the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), alongside three other sports and commercial facilities. Hard Rock did this by committing to a number of operational reforms including “cleaning, disinfection, and infection prevention strategies.”
“As the first NFL stadium to be accredited by GBAC STAR, we are setting a precedent for how large venues should approach cleaning in the wake of the pandemic,” said Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Vice Chairman and CEO Tom Garfinkel in a team press release at the time of certification. “By following a credible third-party standard, we are confident that our facility not only meets, but exceeds, the expectations of our spectators and staff.”
The home of the Dolphins and Hurricanes joined Los Angeles’ STAPLES Center, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kan. in earning this certification. This recognition could be a deciding factor when it comes to fans in the stands at UM’s ACC games.