It's decision time for ACC football, and Cards are 'full speed ahead'

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- This is Decision Week for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and by extension, Louisville's football team, which is likely to learn its fate for the 2020 season as soon as Wednesday. Or if not then, probably by the end of the week.


ACC presidents are scheduled to meet Wednesday, and sometime after that the league is expected to announce its format and possible starting dates for the season. Earlier this month, ACC commissioner John Swafford had set "late July" as the deadline for making a decision.


The conference's ADs were to meet Tuesday to forward a final scheduling proposal to the presidents, who could then approve it or send it back for revision.


UofL is scheduled to open fall camp next Tuesday, Aug. 4, and offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford said on a teleconference call Tuesday afternoon that the Cardinals' coaching staff anticipates getting a go-ahead from the conference office for that date.


"Yes. Yes, absolutely," Ledford said. "We're full speed ahead with that. When we talked to the guys today after walk-through, it was all about a week from today, fall camp, practice one. You can see the excitement and the energy from the guys. It's fun to see that and sense it. They're ready."


Besides solidifying the date for preseason practice to begin, there are many other questions to be answered, of course, as college football -- along with every other sport -- contends with the ongoing pandemic crisis that shows no signs of abating. What the season will eventually look like is anybody's guess, including whether fans will be allowed into stadiums, and if so, how many.


First, of course, the ACC must give the green light to a season of some sort, which it is expected to do. Then a schedule model, including a proposed starting date and a league championship date could be revealed.


At the moment, Louisville is scheduled to open on Sept. 2 against NC State in Cardinal Stadium, but no one is placing any bets on that happening.


"Right now, it's wait and see where everything takes us," UofL coach Scott Satterfield said.


Among the options that have been discussed by ACC presidents and athletic directors are:


--Sticking to the current 12-game schedule, which is considered a remote possibility at best.


--A schedule of 10 conference games and one non-conference game, which would shift the start of the season to Sept. 12.


That would bring up an interesting scenario for UofL because the Cards' current opponent on that date is Clemson on the road. So would that matchup be the opener, or would the NC State game be moved to that date and Clemson moved elsewhere on the schedule? Also, leaving room for one non-conference game would mean that the annual UofL-UK game could still be played.


--A schedule of eight conference games plus one non-conference game with a start date of around Sept. 26. This gives the league more flexibility to move games.


The last two scheduling options would bring in Notre Dame as a full member of the ACC for one year only and eligible to play for the conference championship. It is also expected that the ACC would eliminate divisional play and choose the top two teams in the 15-team league to play in the league title game.


UofL is scheduled to face Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 21. The Irish have been competing in the ACC in every sport except football and hockey beginning with the 2013-14 season. There are already five other ACC football teams on Notre Dame's schedule this season -- Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Duke and Pittsburgh.


It's almost a certainty that UofL will be forced to drop its other two non-conference games against Western Kentucky and Murray State, which would rob the Cards of two sure victories, but would be no big loss from the standpoint of attractive matchups. If more conference games are added, UofL would pick up opponents from a pool consisting of Pitt, Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Duke.


Whatever happens, Satterfield is confident the Cards can adjust and be well-prepared to follow last year's surprising 8-5 record with another successful season.


"Right now, we've got a great plan," Sattefield said. "And if we do push the season back one, two or three weeks, we've got a good plan for that as well. I feel like if you said, 'we're going to play in two weeks,' we could put a great product on the field. I'd love to play the schedule we have on the board right now, all 12 teams. It's not looking like we're going to do that."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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