After dealing with delayed starts, the ACC Network will finally launch in 2019. In accordance with that long-awaited launch, the conference will be making several notable changes to its football and basketball schedules because of the new network.
For instance, the ACC will expand its league schedule from 18 to 20 games for the 2019-20 season. Those extra games were cited as a reason the conference couldn’t bunch up its schedule to accommodate playing the ACC Tournament in New York at Madison Square Garden.
But the changes to the conference football schedule to coincide with the ACC Network launch could be even more intriguing. According to ACC commissioner John Swofford, the league may follow the blueprint established by the SEC when that conference’s network launched in August 2014 and schedule conference games early in the season to attract viewers (and cable providers) with appealing match-ups.
The Daily Press’ David Teel speculates that Virginia Tech and Clemson could match up against conference opponents during the first week of the 2019 season, which includes a Thursday night game on Aug. 29. The two schools are currently set to play FCS Furman and Wofford, respectively. But the conference could have those schools reschedule those games in favor of conference matches.
However, the ACC schedule also has several intriguing match-ups with non-conference opponents in Week 1, including Florida State-Boise Stae, Miami-Florida, North Carolina-South Carolina, Louisville-Purdue and Duke-Alabama.
Swofford elaborated a bit in an interview with Teel during the ACC Tournament on Wednesday:
“You want to have a quality launch, and certainly games that are appealing are really important,” Swofford said, without offering details. “And not only in that particular year. … We are spending a lot of time talking about scheduling. …
“There are some concerns about those (FCS) games being frontloaded on everybody’s schedule. That’s probably not good going forward with our business decisions and scheduling decisions related to the channel.”
Any conference wants appealing, marquee matchups to attract viewers and media coverage early in the season. But the pressure to schedule such games increases with a league network about to launch. The ACC has big ambitions for the ACC Network, aiming for each school in the conference to earn $8 million to $10 million apiece in the first year of the network. The hope is for that revenue to increase to $15-20 million in subsequent years.
Perhaps those projections will even mean the end of games versus FBS opponents in order to create a better TV product each season. College football fans can only hope.