ACC Network possibility bouncing around halls at spring meetings
The ACC spring meetings wrap up with talk of a new TV network and the playoff selection committee.
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- An actual network asking folks to pay extra on their cable bills to watch ACC sports events has been all the rage as the conference remakes itself.
“It’s going to happen,” gushed one source within the conference this week at the ACC spring meetings.
The statement was made more out of anticipation than any finding of fact. While an ACC Network is a possibility, commissioner John Swofford doubted that the subject “moved off the dime in the last 24-48 hours. It’s still something we’ll look at together and evaluate very thoroughly.”
The meetings wrapped up Thursday with some amazement lingering that it could actually happen. No, not Coach K’s bloated salary -- the fact that the once-battered league can even think about forming a network.
Six months ago, it would have been laughable. Now it’s at least a possibility. Earlier this week, ESPN college programming czar Burke Magnus spoke to ACC officials during a routine stop.
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“I think that’s totally in ESPN’s hands,” Louisville AD Tom Jurich said. “People a lot smarter than me can figure it out.”
ESPN has its hands full lately in terms of networks, what with the Longhorn puttering along and the SEC Network about to be launched into the TV ether. What the heck would the four-letter want investing in an ACC Network?
Might as well ask why West Virginia is in the Big 12, 1,000 miles from its nearest rival. It comes down to programming. And with a reconfigured lineup that now features Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC is able to proudly proclaim it has the most population (107 million) and most TV households (38 million) within its 10-state footprint of any conference.
No, that doesn’t mean that Western Pennsylvania (in the home state of Pittsburgh) is suddenly jonesing to pay more to watch Florida State baseball, but it does make for more possible eyeballs on ACC sports.
It all goes back to why college football is the nation’s second-most popular sport. Live, reality-based programming sells. With up to 15 ACC schools (including Notre Dame) with live programming available, that begins to clear one hurdle on the network front: How to fill those 24 hours each day.
“I’m not a big fan of showing classic games,” said Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick. “I think it’s compelling when you’ve got a matchup right now [live game] that someone wants to see. A lot of the schools in this conference are sort of at the forefront of digital programming. It’s a great base to have laid because all these models require on-campus production.”
So there’s that. And the idea that a network is being floated for a conference that looked on shaky ground six months ago shows that content is still king. In other words, we haven’t reached the backside of that wave where folks have stopped watching. Plus, if you add Notre Dame to anything, it becomes more valuable. It’s the potential for Irish football and basketball games on an ACC Network that makes this discussion even possible.
“I think we do add to it,” Swarbrick said, “but it’s the best basketball conference ever. It’s the best lacrosse conference in history. It’s the best women’s soccer -- probably men’s soccer -- conference. That’s the fodder for a great network. It’s tonnage of programming but it’s the quality of that tonnage.”
All that is said with the reminder that only the Big Ten Network has been profitable in the college universe. The SEC is expected to be successful, but an effort by the Mountain West failed and the Big 12 doesn’t seem to be interested.
Selection committee: The BCS commissioners could do worse than consult new Georgia Tech AD Mike Bobinski.
You might remember the ebullient former Xavier AD as the chairman of the NCAA basketball selection committee this past season. After completing a five-year term on the committee, Bobinski might be able to offer some tips to the commissioners as they go about assembling the playoff selection committee.
“I would be happy to [consult] if that ever made any sense,” Bobinski told CBSSports.com.
How hard could it be for him? The man is used to juggling numbers. The former accountant worked for Walt Disney in Orlando in the 1980s before becoming a business manager at Notre Dame. He has spent the last 12 years at Xavier. Bobinski’s first week on the job at Georgia Tech was the week of the Final Four.
We’ve been led to believe that the playoff selection committee is going to be a lot like the basketball committee. The playoff committee will have metrics to lean on but, like basketball, the decisions will be more subjective.
And possibly more controversial. Bobinski knows that the worst it got on Selection Sunday was explaining a couple of seeds and why a couple of teams didn’t get in. For a football committee member, “there are certain parts of the country you may not want to go out.”
Fill in the blank, there, sports fans. Swofford did remind me that the BCS commissioners have more than enough basketball committee experience -- Bob Bowlsby, Jim Delany, Mike Slive, just to name three.
“There lot of guys in the room, commissioners, who know how it works,” Bobinski said. “There are some of us who could be resources. There are some things that definitely could be of value when you start from scratch.”
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