The ACC wants a conference network. ESPN wants more TV inventory to make that network viable. While it looked like athletic directors were moving toward a nine-game conference schedule, the Daily Press is reporting ACC ADs “likely” will stick with eight.
In exchange for financial incentives, ESPN asked for eight league games and two Power Five non-conference dates (8+2), or nine league games and one outside Power Five contest (9+1).
But during a conference call Tuesday morning to prepare for their face-to-face meetings, the athletic directors learned from ACC commissioner John Swofford that while ESPN prefers one of those formats, it will settle for 8+1. This according to sources throughout the league.
Why would ACC athletic directors not want better television inventory? Their primary concern is making it look like their respective football teams are good. Who doesn’t love a bowl game bonus? Keeping the conference game total at eight protects each team’s cherished FCS-ta.
ACC teams scheduled 15 games against FCS opponents for 2016. Every ACC team except Louisville has one on the schedule – the Cardinals played Charlotte who joined FBS as a full member this year. North Carolina and N.C. State found FCS opponents so nice, they scheduled them twice.
Those all but guaranteed wins make a difference. N.C. State was a solid 7-5 during the 2015 regular season, which sounds better than 5-5 vs. FBS, with wins over Troy, South Alabama, Wake Forest, BC, and Syracuse. Virginia Tech finished 6-6 and went to a bowl game, which was really 5-6 vs. FBS.
FCS wins were even more impactful in 2014. Four ACC Coastal teams – North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Virginia Tech – became bowl eligible with only five FBS wins. Three ACC teams – Syracuse, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh – did so in 2013.
Conference TV networks are important for ADs. But, not as important as making themselves appear competent.