The Clemson Tigers made the ACC proud earlier this week when they dominated the SEC’s Alabama Crimson Tide to win their second national title in three years. ACC commish John Swofford was certainly elated over the win, but perhaps even more so because of all the hype Clemson will bring into the 2019 college football season, which also happens to be when the long-awaited ACC Network will finally debut.
It was a long, strange road for the ACC Network over the years as ESPN repeatedly pushed back on the idea before finally agreeing to it as part of an extended rights deal (and to avoid financial penalties). After that, the debate shifted into whether or not it would be a linear channel or a rebranded version of one of ESPN’s existing smaller channels, and more. Still, ESPN insisted they would commit to a linear launch in 2019 under both former president John Skipper and current president Jimmy Pitaro, before they finally made it official with a launch date of August 22, 2019. It was welcome news to the schools of the ACC who are looking at a windfall of around at least $10 million each once the network is up and running. No wonder they’ve been pulling out all the stops to make it a success.
As part of the announcement, it was noted that those Clemson Tigers would host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for a Thursday night affair that would make for the network’s first big broadcast, one week after it launches. Now comes word that the ACC isn’t satisfied with pushing just one game up to the first week of the season. They want to make as big a splash as they can and they’re loading the opening weekend up with multiple conference showdowns to draw attention to their network.
Per David Teel of the Daily Press, the Pitt Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers, Boston College Eagles, and Virginia Tech Hokies will be involved in two games that weekend. It’s still unclear which teams will play one another and whether or not both games will be played on Saturday or if one of them will be a Friday night game. It’s also unclear if one or both of these games will be broadcast exclusively on the ACC Network or instead broadcast on another ESPN network as a way to promote the new network.
This would be the first time since 1996 that the ACC has featured three conference games in the opening weekend of the season. That was so long ago, three of the six teams involved in 2019 weren’t even a part of the conference.
According to Teel, the holdup in the announcement was Virginia Tech, who already had a game against Furman scheduled for that weekend. However, the Hokies announced Monday that they had moved the game to September 14.
While it’s unclear what the match-ups will be until the ACC officially announces the 2019 dates and times in the coming weeks, we can make an educated guess. We know that Virginia and BC are not on each other’s schedules for the upcoming season. It also seems unlikely that Virginia and Virginia Tech would want to play their rivalry game in the first week of the season, even if it is for the greater good of the ACC Network. So more than likely, it’ll probably be Virginia vs. Pitt and Virginia Tech vs. BC.
However it shakes out, it gives the ACC a solid core of games to build ACC Network hype around. Plus, when you couple it with some of the other high-profile games that weekend involving conference teams (FSU vs. Boise State, Duke vs. Alabama, Miami vs. Florida, Louisville vs. Notre Dame, and North Carolina vs. South Carolina), the ACC has the chance to really own the weekend in terms of hype and ratings.
The ACC Network’s hype train isn’t specific to football, either. The conference also plans to open their men’s basketball season with seven ACC contests in November, a conference first that is sure to draw eyeballs, especially if they put some marquee matchups in there. Based on what they’ve done so far, we’d expect nothing else.