In an attempt to shed a little light on how the ACC football schedule comes about, theacc.com posted a Q&A with Senior Associate Commissioner of Football Operations Michael Strickland. There's a lot of interesting nuggets in there, so well worth the read, but the one that stood out to me revolved around the ACC's Friday night deal with ESPN.
If you love Friday night ACC football, boy, are you in for a treat!
Q. There have been a handful of Friday night games in recent years involving ACC teams, and a couple more have been added this season. Is that something we can expect to continue moving forward?
In this and future seasons, we will play five Friday games, an increase from three in previous seasons. Playing in a limited inventory of specialty games on Monday, Thursday and Friday affords our programs an exclusive platform before a guaranteed primetime national audience to showcase their football and athletic programs, as well as the broader institution. They are highly valuable for a number of reasons, and certainly among them is the financial value those games create for the ACC and its member institutions to continue to meet the needs of our student-athletes.
When the ACC re-upped with ESPN back in 2012, the conference agreed to host three ACC games a year on Fridays and got a standing commitment from Boston College and Syracuse to host two of those three games. The third game would fall on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
In 2013, the first year of the deal, Boston College hosted Wake Forest, Pittsburgh hosted Miami and Syracuse, well, didn't. For whatever reason, SU got out of the whole Friday night deal and the ACC only staged two Friday games in 2013.
In 2014, Boston College hosted Pittsburgh, Syracuse hosted Louisville and Virginia Tech hosted Virginia on Black Friday. Syracuse also faced FCS Villanova in the season opener on Friday night, so perhaps this was a make-up for a 2013 schedule with no Friday dates (though the original agreement clearly stated Friday night ACC games).
That requirement has now increased to five games moving forward and starting in 2015:
Florida State at Boston College (Sep. 18)
Boise State at Virginia (Sep. 25)
N.C. State at Virginia Tech (Oct. 9)
Louisville at Wake Forest (Oct. 30)
Miami at Pittsburgh (Nov. 27)
I get that the Friday night games give programs added exposure and fill a programming void for ESPN, especially with the NFL now making in-roads on Thursday night. But the fact remains these games are brutal for programs hoping to fill their stadiums. Programs across the country are battling declining per-game attendance. These midweek games for TV make that task that much more difficult.
Hopefully this new arrangement replaces the handshake deal that BC and Syracuse made with the conference back in 2012, especially since it doesn't appear that Syracuse held up its end of the bargain in the first place. With five Friday night games a year and just 14 conference members, it may be unavoidable, but it sure would be nice if BC could get a one-year reprieve from this Friday night requirement in 2016. At the very least, make BC's one Friday night game next season a road game so the conference doesn't continue to penalize BC season-ticket holders with four straight seasons with a Friday night home game.