Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rick Chryst Interview and two other tidbits

This Q&A with Chryst is burning up the MAC wires. Suffice it to say, that Chryst is falling somewhere between crabs and chlamdyia....or something like that. I have avoided blogging it until now, but I guess there's time and space available now, LOL. Fans are mostly pissed about football scheduling, most particularly, weekday games. I'm going to post an excerpt of it, and then comment in orange, football presser style.

DC: Looking at the recently released football schedule and all of the Tuesday and Wednesday games on it, is that the main way for this conference to get national recognition?

RC: This past year we developed an extremely successful relationship with ESPN and filling in the syndicated package that the Big Ten used to be in. So you can't write about our football schedule without writing about the syndicated football package. There's a strong affiliate in Chicago, 20 percent of the country. Last year I don't think Northern played a midweek game.

I don't know why he didn't just say yes. But, hey, he is the commissioner. No one doubts that the midweek games are necessary to be on TV, and everyone says that the exposure is important to our conference.

Let me ask some inconvenient questions.

  • Even accepting the premise that being on ESPN is good for the MAC, an increasing number of these games are on ESPNU. Is this still a benefit to our conference that outweighs the benefits of Saturday games to actual MAC fans, (not those who watch when there is nothing else on)?
  • The quality of MAC football has tanked in the same period of time that these midweek games have begun to proliferate. Can you explain precisely the benefit of these midweek games in the face of this? (Note: The MAC was ranked behind the Sun Belt in Sagarin ratings last year).
  • Could it possibly be that being on ESPNU and playing in the middle of the week merely identifies us as being in the college football ghetto?
  • If the Big East and ACC really wanted those TV slots, don't you think they would have already snagged them--or will when our contract expires?
  • Follow up: What is our exact relationship with ESPN? Are they paying to show these games? Is the MAC paying them?
DC: This year Northern has four.

RC: And all of them are in November. That's part of the strategy.

OK. So, the strategy is to play Saturdays in September and October and weekdays in November. The Maginot Line was a strategy, too, so just using the word doesn't justify it. I do see the rationale, but let me add one thing....from the perspective of a fan, I'd like to play in the afternoon in November because it would be a lot more comfortable. Or do you always sit inside?

DC: Is it fair to ask teams to do that, when they're used to playing on Saturday's and then all of a sudden have to adjust to this?

RC: What's the difference?

Well, on Saturdays no one has class. And on Friday nights no one has class. As opposed to playing on Tuesday, and you have class on Monday and maybe Tuesday. Maybe they don't go to class on gameday anyway. Maybe there is no difference. I know this.... as fan, I'm all lot happier on a Saturday than I am getting home from work and running down to a game.

DC: It has to be an adjustment with how teams approach things.

RC: You transition. You're not on five days. You don't have a single five-day week (in this schedule). I think it's something that our people continue to look at. I can tell you that if we vacate any of our space it's not going to be there.

I think this is right--you do transition. Coach Brandon has said that you treat Wednesay like Monday, whatever. And in between a range of snarky and wiseass comments, I would make this five-day weeks is a huge step forward for the MAC, and is an important scheduling goal for the MAC. A short week is terribly unfair to college athletes. Good for that.

DC: Because somebody will swallow it up?

RC: Not just somebody. ACC, Big East, those conferences. You look at every conference has some games played mid-week. If you look at who is in those midweek games, it's not just the Mid-American Conference. I really strongly believe that our schedule is far more structured for when those mid-week's happen. You've got the league races playing out, the Navy game (for Northern) is an exception but that's a great opportunity. I think we're in a much better place in that regard. There was a time when this league played only on Saturdays.

OK. See above re: ACC and Big East. If they really want those slots, they will get them.

But, the statement that the schedule is far more structured (far more, he said far more) than playing every Saturday is just ridiculous. Really, fun, even, in its delusion. The best structure is every Saturday, all year. We may need to accomodate another structure to meet only goals, but let's not pretend that its far more structured.

Finally, there was a time when this league played only on Saturdays. We had better football then--certainly no worse.

DC: But in order to not only survive, but also even thrive you need those mid-week games

RC: I don't think you can stop the world. You're either in it or your not. Like I said, no five-day turnarounds. We're able to offer some pick-'em selections so our games can play on. In September and October it's really Saturday football. That's not to say you can't stop refining, but that's been a big part of this league's growth.

There has to be a lot of flexibility. Starting with your coaches, moving to your administrators and you hope you can keep it in balance.

OK. Look, I don't want to discount that we have three bowls now, and there was a day when this league was lucky to have one. In fact, there was a time when we had none. So, that is important. Other evidence of growth is less apparent.

And, Rick? You forgot to mention THE FANS showing flexibility. OK?

Final note on this. MAC football is at least a moderate success in the Chryst administration. What has been unconscionable is the tragic decline of the MAC in men's basketball during his tenure. Enough.

Our other tidbits?

First, take American U off the list. They are in the tourney. Only thirteen more remain.
Second, I went on (and on) about Chris Knight. Apparently, he was not eligible for any freshmen awards because he was redshirted due to academics. There is, apparently, a stupid rule for everything, but then again, who cares about the all-freshmen team anyway? Really?


Anonymous said...

I think most of your comments are well thought out, but overall, it's not like the Commissioner has the full say here. The multi-year strategy to get more exposure, more bowl games, more TV games, etc. (which has worked) has been done in conjunction with the college presidents and AD's of the MAC. Some were on board more than others, but all would agree that the strategy has succeeded so far. Now I think the MAC needs the next stage in the strategy, which included the continued exposure, but maybe gears things back a bit towards the local fan. But the conference had to do this to get ourselves on the map.

Orange said...

Thanks for your comments. I guess I wonder at what precise measure the strategy has succeeded. But, if things start to gear back to our local fans, I think its time for that.