Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Once upon a time, in those halcyon days of, say, 2003, the MAC was known for two things: grooming future NFL quarterbacks like Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger, and playing league games whenever ESPN asked them to, often on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday nights.
Now that it's the year 2011, things have changed. Oh, the MAC is still playing weeknight games ... but as they've done the past couple of seaons, thanks to travel and academic concerns they aren't playing them at the drop a proverbial hat any longer. Per the official 2011 MAC schedule released today , no MAC team will play a midweek game between Week 1 (when four teams kick off their seasons on Thursday night) and Week 10, when Northern Illinois visits Toledo for a Tuesday night ESPN2 broadcast.
That matchup kicks off the MAC's version of Shark Week, as ESPN airs seven MAC games over the next seven weeknights. The backloaded midweek slate helps the MAC accomplish two goals: keeping the bulk of their schedule on Saturdays where they naturally belong, while still ensuring that the biggest games of their season are aired to a national audience.
But is it worth it? Ceding the midweek slots to conferences like the WAC (remember Boise State playing Louisiana Tech on a Tuesday this past season?) may have resulted in smoother scheduling and easier logistics, but it's also resulting in less exposure; the 2011 schedule features 15 guaranteed ESPN dates, where the 2010 version offered 19.
Of course, the MAC already tried the maximum exposure route and decided it wasn't worth the trade-off. As the league's contiued adherence to the "no midweek games until they matter" plan shows, even ESPN's power has its limits.
Bonus link of interest: Did you see where Kirby Hocutt bolted from the Miami (Fla.) athletic director's chair for the same position at Texas Tech last week? Well, before going to Miami Hocutt was also AD at Ohio; here's an open letter to fans from his Bobcat days which discusses, in part, the MAC's midweek scheduling dilemma.