LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If you listen carefully, you can already hear the first notes of discord among the "big five" NCAA conferences, even as their spring meetings convene across the country.
The Atlantic Coast Conference meetings are under way in Amelia Island, Fla., with University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, basketball coach Rick Pitino and football coach Bobby Petrino all in attendance for the first time in full voting fashion.
(At a news conference announcing its soccer schedule in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Monday, the American Athletic Conference logo was gone from the stadium turf. The department commissioned a facility-by-facility search to see where the AAC logo was to be removed and the ACCs added.)
The ACC, like the SEC, has said it will stick with an eight-game league schedule, and will require all of its members to play at least one non-conference game against a member of the "big five" conferences, or Notre Dame. All but two ACC teams did so last season, anyway.
This isn't exactly welcome news everywhere. The Pac-12 is going to a nine-game conference schedule. The Big Ten, which began its meetings yesterday in Chicago, also is going to a nine-game league schedule.
Nobody in college football is exactly sure about how this new playoff selection will work, but strength of schedule is a relatively new concept among these power conferences, and it will be hotly debated in coming months.
Already, out of the west, comes some dissatisfaction. If the Pac-12 is playing nine league games, is it fair to compare its champion against one that played only eight league games? Shouldn't everyone do the same thing? After the SEC decided to stay at eight, Stanford coach David Shaw spoke up to ESPN.com.
"Don't back down from playing your own conference," Shaw told ESPN two weeks ago. "It's one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don't back down from playing your own conference."
It's only the beginning, folks. Within the SEC, people are mad that a "permanent" opponent from the other division doesn't make for equal degree of difficulty. LSU is mad about having Florida on its schedule year after year, for instance.
Slowly, as the leagues begin to schedule up, or even expand their number of games to provide "inventory" for their conference TV networks, schools will discover what I have said all along could be the undoing of this "big five" arrangement.
If you have five conferences, and all of the teams are playing predominantly each other, then half of those teams are going to be losing every week.
You're going to see a good bit of hand-wringing about equitable scheduling over the next couple of years, until the inevitable happens and the college football playoff expands to eight teams to give the sport some breathing room.
Even in the ACC, there have been discussions over whether to approach the NCAA about allowing its two highest-ranked teams to play for the league championship, even if they're in different divisions.
In other words, if Florida State and Clemson have the best ACC shots to make the four-team playoffs by virtue of rankings, then they would play in the conference championship game rather than a lower-rated team from the other division.
Swofford said on Monday that the league does not plan to alter its divisional alignment. Whether some provision might be made for championship game qualification, however, probably will be a recurring question as long as Florida State and Clemson remain in the same division.
If you're looking for things that could hinder the new power five conference arrangement, the debate over eight-game vs. nine-game conference schedules gives you a bit of foreshadowing. But it's not the major area of contention.
You'll see lower-tier schools begin to ask for scheduling concessions to keep their records respectable. You'll see the mega-revenue schools begin to ask why they're sharing.
At the ACC meetings this week, they're expected to discuss enhanced benefits for athletes. Schools that can afford those easily will have no problem with them. Schools that can't will claim an unfair advantage.
Conference upheaval over the past several years has given way to an uneasy alliance. But don't expect it to be harmonious.
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