Today we welcome a special guest to the blog, the ACC's Associate Comissioner for Communications and Football Operations, Michael Kelly. Michael was kind enough to sit down with us and talk ACC football television coverage, future ACC football schedules, the conference's Represent ACC marketing campaign and get his early thoughts on this year's ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
BC Interruption: Give us a little bit about your professional background and your responsibilities for the conference.
Michael Kelly: I came to the conference office in May of 2007. Prior to coming to Greensboro, I had served as the President of three different Super Bowl Host Committees (Tampa 2001, Jacksonville 2005, Miami 2007) and the Executive Director of one Final Four Organizing Committee (Tampa Bay 1999). I also worked at Wake Forest for 3 years as the Director of Athletic Operations and Facilities and was also the Associate AD for External Operations at the University of South Florida.
I am now the Associate Commissioner for Communications and Football Operations at the ACC. I oversee the Football Operations Department (Scheduling, Officiating, Operations, Championship Game, Bowl Relationships, BCS Coordination, etc.) and the Communications Department (sports information/media relations for all ACC sports and staff liaison to the ACC television committee).
BCI: Last Monday, ABC/ESPN and the ACC Network exercised a six-day option on the September 25 game between BC and Virginia Tech, leaving a lot of BC fans in limbo as they try to make plans for the schools Parents' Weekend. What goes into television's decision to exercise a six-day option on a particular game?
Kelly: Our TV partners are contractually permitted to use a six-day option up to four times per season. They have had this contractual provision since 2004 so it is certainly not a new phenomenon. The purpose is to obviously place the best games in the best possible television windows and sometimes our partners consider the outcomes of certain games to be critical to that decision. Fans also need to understand that TV is often not just waiting for results from games in our conference but from games all over the country in order for them to put together the best slate of games for television. I know it is frustrating for fans (believe me I know—I probably travel to more ACC football games than anybody) when the six-day holds are in place, but in the big picture I think it is a good overall compromise with our TV partners that ultimately delivers the best overall result for all concerned more times than not.
BCI: Will BC fans and fans of other ACC programs see less of these six-day options starting next season when the new 12-year, ESPN television rights contract goes into effect?
Kelly: You will see the same amount in the next contract. They will be able to have four six-day options—the same it has been for the past seven years.
BCI: I know another frustration of fans (well, maybe just me) is the fact that the annual ACC football schedule is only released approximately nine months before the start of the season. We've seen other BCS conferences able to schedule league dates for football multiple years out. I'm wondering why it is that the ACC schedule is released just one year out. Is there any chance that the league will be able to schedule ACC games multiple years out now with the new TV contract?
Kelly: The reality is that while some other BCS AQ conference have most dates set years in advance, they still make adjustments in the first quarter of the year prior before putting out the final schedule. We just happen to be of the mindset that releasing the schedule no later than the first week of February is in our overall best interest and I honestly don’t believe that it is too much of an inconvenience to fans because eight or nine months is plenty of time to plan a trip. First, we need to give our schools the maximum flexibility to get their four non-conference games scheduled. They sometimes don’t complete that assignment until early January. Once those games are set we end up working with our TV partners to set any special dates (i.e. Labor Day and Thursday Nights) and obviously our TV partners want to take into account a lot of factors when they select these special games. Those special dates essentially form the cornerstone of how the rest of the conference schedule sets up because we must follow our various conference scheduling parameters. For these reasons, it is would be highly problematic for our schools to lock in our schedule too many years in advance. I take some exception to your blog’s suggestion that this process is basketball-centric. It is highly football-centric because it helps us get games scheduled when they have the best chance for the best television windows and in order to make sure our overall schedule is as competitively balanced as possible.
BCI: This year's Represent ACC marketing campaign was recently written up in the Boston Business Journal. What can you tell us about the program and more specifically the goals of this year's campaign?
Kelly: Our Represent campaign is designed to heighten the awareness for all ACC fans of the importance of the Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship Game and it relevance to the Discover Orange Bowl, and our relationship with all of our bowl partners. We are still in a relative infancy with both games and we feel that we need to do everything we can to heighten the awareness of the relationship. Components of this campaign include a special microsite RepresentACC.com (which highlights weekly accolades in addition to allowing fans to upload photos for special customized posters and videos and the opportunity to participate on special blogs with our 12 campus correspondents), a special promotional race car (with the obvious connection to Charlotte) and a special Represent ACC day at each campus on the date of each home conference opener (which includes special contests, promotions and giveaways). "Represent" is a call to action to all of us -- student-athletes, coaches and fans, and we are really pleased with how this campaign is coming together.
BCI: As we approach 2015 -- the last year of the current ACC schedule -- will there be any consideration to realigning the ACC's two divisions? Have there been any conversations about other possible tweaks to the schedule, such as moving to a nine-game conference schedule or adopting a scheduling format different than the current 5+2+1 setup?
Kelly: There have been some blue sky conversations about all of these possible concepts, but nothing indicating any imminent interest of making changes at this time.
BCI: Last one. How have ticket sales been so far for this year's ACC Championship Game in Charlotte? How do you think the league's early struggles might shape the dynamic of this year's game?
Kelly: Ticket sales for the championship game are stronger than ever before at this point in time. With the conference season just getting started, we are hopeful that ACC fans will continue to realize the importance of the ACC Championship Game and find reason to support the game whether their team is in the game or not. The road to the Discover Orange Bowl runs through Charlotte this year and we want people to enjoy the "48-hour Celebration of ACC Football." Please visit www.accfootballcharlotte.com for all the information on ACC Football Championship weekend.
BCI: Thanks for joining us Michael.