ACC Media days have brought some big news as Swofford announced plans for an ACC TV Network. According to USA Today, the agreement will add $5-$8 million dollars to each school's bottom line, great news for the Tigers and our conference mates. Related to this move, the conference will further expand their ACC basketball schedule from 18 to 20 ACC games. It wasn't long ago that the conference slate was a mere 16 games.
This move makes a lot of sense as the conference will need more quality "inventory" to fill their new station and this move helps them do just that. It was just two years ago that I practically begged the ACC not to up the conference's football schedule from eight to nine ACC games. So how do I explain my strong difference of opinion on expanding the conference schedule for one sport, but not the other?
1. Basketball programs can sustain the loss of a home game and not feel the impact as they would in football. If the ACC went to nine conference games in football and Clemson wanted to keep their future scheduled road game at Texas A&M and instead ditch a home game against a "cupcake," they'd only have six home games. While some might shrug that off, it's a 14% reduction of the home schedule. That can decimate revenue streams for the athletic department as well as the city. Moves like that can put local hotels out of business. It's a huge deal!
Conversely in basketball, if Duke had to drop its upcoming basketball game against Grand Canyon University to maintain an away from home game against Kansas... well that'd be fine. They have 16 other home games plus two exhibitions. Losing one home game is losing just 6% of their home schedule and wouldn't have the dramatic impact on their athletic department or town. Only a few thousand people come to Durham for a basketball game compared to over 80,000 for a major college football game.
2. Conference basketball games are where the fun is. In football, we look forward to Clemson vs. Georgia, Ohio State vs. Oklahoma, Oregon vs. Michigan State and the bevy of other exciting non-conference matchups. In basketball, all the non-conference games happen in the early portion of the year when attention is still on football.
For example, in 2013, Kansas defeated Duke on November 12th. This was overshadowed by Alabama football beating LSU on November 9th and Auburn beating Alabama on November 30th. The football games had 3x to 4x the ratings that the major basketball matchup earned. Duke had four other games that season that had higher ratings, all ACC games taking place well after football season.
What we really look forward to in basketball is Duke vs. UNC, Kansas vs. Oklahoma, Georgetown vs. Villanova, and the like. It's a different sport with a difference culture and conference games are much more meaningful than non-conference games - especially with the conference tournament set-ups.
3. Basketball schedules are packed full of cupcakes, not just one or two. While Clemson will play Troy and SC State in football this upcoming year, They have double the number of weak opponents in basketball. Even vaunted Duke will play Grand Canyon, William & Mary, Appalachian State, Tennessee State, and Elon. That's a lot of cupcakes!
These are compelling reasons why Swofford was wise to stick to eight ACC football games, but increase inventory for the new TV channel with 20 ACC basketball games.