Sunday, May 21, 2017

David Briggs on MAC Football Scheduling and my two cents

So, there's no bigger issue to get MAC Football fans revved up then the #maction scheduling in November.  As noted earlier this year, the MAC has gone all the way in--there will now be absolutely zero weekend November games.

So, the MAC hears all this.  And they are trying to do some things to better educate the public.  That included a recent exercise where they invited the media in to do some mock scheduling.  The Blade's David Briggs was one of those people, and he had an excellent story in today's Blade.  Not going to steal the thunder, click here and check it out and then come back here and I'll have some comments.

OK.  As I said, the story was excellent.  He did a very good analysis and I agree 100% with his conclusion.

The MAC did get done what they wanted.  Sold.  There's more to it than I thought.  Teams can protect a home day and an away day.  And there are rules about consecutive road games, etc.  You saw it.  That's a much tougher job and I can actually see how completely getting rid of Saturday games makes the pacing of the weekday games easier to manage.

The point is (and this is where Briggs lands his best thoughts) all this complication is in support of something that just doesn't make sense.  The numbers you see for those BG games...the 0 ratings, the five-figure viewership...those are shocking.  We're playing in front of tiny crowds, freezing our season ticket holders (the only reliable asset the programs have) and we're doing it for a "national" audience that would, if all flown to BG, only fill the stadium a couple more times.

Not exactly what we're told by the MAC.  Coach Jinks talks glowingly ("everybody loves football") of the #maction deal and its impact on recruiting.  Which would have to mean a significant number of that minuscule audience are three-star recruits with nothing else to do on a Tuesday.

Well, then, the money.  It has to be for the money.  Briggs reports that MAC gets $10M per year for all this nonsense...the 0.0 rating of the financial world.  That doesn't cover the subsidy any university provides to cover the deficit at one MAC school.  In fact, according to USA Today, the collective MAC subsidy for athletics was around $243.8M annually.

So, that $10M?  Yeah.

Here, Briggs says it and I can't say it any better.

At some point, the MAC needs to remember why its money-bleeding programs exist in the first place.

Is it to provide cheap national programming for ESPN? Or is it because of its special local connection with our campuses and communities?
I would just add one more, which is to provide "talkings points" to athletic directors and commissioners when their head hunting buddies call to get them jobs at bigger schools.

Anyway, the emperor has no clothes.  The MAC has built up this entire scheduling mythology to justify something that makes no sense.  That whole thing--the PR initiative, the mock scheduling workshop, the protected dates, the five-day turnarounds, all the gymnastics--could be eliminated simply by going back to Saturday games with no meaningful impact on the finances of the league.

Yeah, I get it.  Crowds in November wouldn't be great on Saturday either.  I am really sad to think about our athletic directors spending sleepless nights worrying about when Ohio State and Michigan are playing, but if November's going to be bad either way, why not play the game on Saturday and try to nurture your "local connection with our campuses and communities."

One last thing.  Have you had a chance to see what's up at ESPN?  Yes, there are a lot of new venues to get coverage but there aren't a lot of new advertisers hanging around and that mother's milk of subscription fees is getting snipped with the cord.  How sustainable is even the $10M?  And if that goes away and #maction is on Twitter and your hard-core fans have found something else to do...


Schadenfreude said...

If we lose weeknight #MACtion, we would lose a lot. We would lose $10 million per year for member schools. We also lose a great deal of exposure for the conference. The Blade can cherry pick a couple of games between dreadful teams that got bad ratings. Let's not forget that some #MACtion gets decent TV ratings, too. Overall, the exposure we get is immense compared to what we would get without these games. Overall, these weeknight games gives the MAC a great deal of national credibility that we never used to have.

Twenty-five years ago, most of us what have thought it crazy to think that ESPN would ever air multiple MAC games each week. I can remember when the MAC couldn't get any games on national TV at all. I also remember that the crowds weren't very good in November before #MACtion.

Given the history: It boggles my mind that people are so relentlessly critical of weeknight #MACtion.

There may come a day when ESPN is no longer willing to spend money on November #MACtion. If that happens, we will probably look back and mourn what we lost.

I suspect Briggs's column will not age well.

Anonymous said...

I had to go back and re-read the story to be sure it wasn't mentioned and it was not. For me the phrase is "the league", so I don't get caught for plagerizing, is paid $10 million, I wonder how much if any reaches the universities? In previous discussions on another forum alike it seems to be assumed the schools get to share in that wealth but I really haven't seen anything concrete to say they do. Who knows, the MAC might be keeping it all to fund themselves or using it as part of the general funds, or......