The NCAA told North Carolina to sit this one out.
Boston College, Virginia and Maryland are already out of bowl consideration, with too few wins to qualify. And unless Wake Forest and Virginia Tech can win this weekend, the Atlantic Coast Conference could have only five teams in bowl games — the fewest for the league since 2000, before beginning an expansion that brought it to it 12 schools.
“I think the guys need to know what’s at stake,” said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, whose team plays Vanderbilt on Saturday. “We have smart guys at Wake Forest, and I think they know that it’s either win or go home. If we win, we have a chance to play again. If we don’t win, we’re not going to be playing in the postseason.”
Even if the Hokies and Demon Deacons do reach the requisite six wins, the ACC would only have seven bowl-eligible teams for eight bowl slots.
Virginia Tech has the third-longest bowl streak in the nation, reaching the postseason for 19 consecutive years. Coach Frank Beamer, whose team plays Virginia this weekend, said he doesn’t think the lack of bowl-eligible teams is a long-term problem for the conference.
“Absolutely, I think the league is strong,” he said. “I just think you prove yourself over the long haul. One particular season, it’s kind of been unusual on this side (the Coastal Division). Clemson and Florida State, they sure are, they’re good. They’re talented and they’re good.”
No. 10 Florida State, which has a non-conference game against Florida this weekend, has clinched a spot in the ACC title game against Georgia Tech on Dec. 1; the winner will go to the Orange Bowl. No. 12 Clemson would likely be the next choice for the bowls, potentially heading to the Chik-fil-A Bowl.
With six wins and the potential for seven, North Carolina State and Duke — which has not played in a bowl since the 1994 season — are in the next group.
“The only thing we can control is beating Boston College,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said. “We could be the only seven-win team in contention. Three of us are playing to get to that seven-win level. So that’s what we’re playing for. And if that moves us up in the bowl thing, then that’s good for these kids for what they’ve had to fight through.”
Wake Forest and Virginia Tech could earn their sixth wins this weekend and fill spots in the Dec. 28 Independence Bowl and the Dec. 31 Music City Bowl. But even if they both win, the league wouldn’t have a team to send to the Dec. 27 Military Bowl in Washington, D.C.
“You look at two of them, (it’s) not because of the lack of win total,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “Outside of those situations, you’d have two teams that would very much be in the hunt of having opportunities to go to a bowl game.
“The circumstances surrounding that are unfortunate, because it dealt with rules and infractions and violations. But from a football, on-the-field standpoint, they garnered enough wins to be considered to be bowl-eligible.”
The bowl bust won’t be that big of a financial hit for the conference’s schools. The three bowls the ACC has yet to qualify for pay a total of about $4 million to the participating teams; the conference allows for expenses of $3.3 million.
The remainder is split equally among the 12 conference teams — even the ones facing NCAA penalties — after a deduction for expenses of $3.3 million.
In other words, each school would lose about $50,000.
The five bowls the ACC has already locked up pay about $28 million, or about $2.3 million per school.
“(The) differential is very small,” Georgia Tech associate athletic director Wayne Hogan said, adding that it would have no affect on the school’s athletic budget. Because some teams lose money on the lower-tier bowls, he said, the revenue will be “no worse than a wash.”
London said the league suffers more in stature.
“Everybody will be talking about the teams that are playing, what league is playing against what league,” he said. “It is interesting that this particular year when the bowl games are handed out or talked about that the absence of two ACC teams, because of the situations, won’t be in the mix.”