CLEMSON – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is ready for the 12-step gauntlet.
Swinney is among the 30 coaches from the five major college football conferences who favor exclusively playing other major conference opponents, according to a poll conducted by ESPN.
Sixty-five coaches from the "Power 5" conferences -- the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pacific 12 -- as well Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly were polled during recent visits to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
Forty-six percent of those coaches favored playing only teams from other Power Five conferences. Thirty-five percent opposed the notion. Approximately 18.5 percent abstained.
Swinney was one of only four ACC coaches who favored bulking up the schedule. Swinney has reiterated his scheduling philosophy of coupling the assured game against rival and SEC member South Carolina with another Power 5 program. Clemson will open this season against SEC member Georgia. Next year, Clemson will host Notre Dame. In the following two seasons, Clemson will face SEC member Auburn.
Additionally, each year, Clemson typically schedules a small Bowl Subdivision program and a Championship Subdivision foe. Georgia State and South Carolina State fill those slots this season, respectively.
Swinney's vote indicates he would adjust his philosophy, if every program was bound by the same scheduling stipulations.
The majority of coaches from the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 favored the idea, although South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Georgia coach Mark Richt were among the league's five dissenters.
Such a shift would instantly provide greater value for fans purchasing tickets, as well strengthen the quality of televised nonconference games.
"We need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games," Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN. "Those are the most important. But we never think about that."
The scheduling shift also would alter the perceived weight of losses. Presently, teams can strategically plot the path of least resistance into the College Football Playoff. A single loss, regardless of the opponent, essentially knocks a team out of championship contention. Balancing the competition among Power 5 teams may yield fewer undefeated teams, but it also could provide a better gauge of a true champion, since the playoff selection committee essentially could compare apples to apples.
Among the drawbacks are concerns about the financial future of small FBS and FCS programs who depend on the revenue from games with major programs to fund their athletic departments.
Small schools "can't survive without us," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora told ESPN. "It would not be good for college football."