Welcome to November, the time of year when College Football America again dominates Saturdays. No more baseball, the NFL is getting ready for its final regular season push, too early to take anything that happens in basketball or hockey seriously.
And, it also means Saturdays are dominated by conference races being decided, rankings that have some bite and meaning, Heisman contenders and pretenders being decided. All of this played out each week from noon to midnight, coast to coast.
EXCEPT, of course, if you play football in the Mid-American Conference.
Take last Saturday, for example. You had dramatic conference games in the ACC (Virginia Tech-Miami), Big Ten (Ohio State-Iowa, Penn State-Michigan State), Big 12 (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State) and Pac-12 (USC--Arizona).
This week we have Miami-Notre Dame, TCU-Oklahoma, and Auburn-Georgia as the main course of the Saturday college football menu.
What we didn't have last week and what we won't have this week or on ANY Saturday for the entire month of November is a MAC game.
It would seem that there has been a palace coup in the MAC which is being run by people who follow the philosophy of legendary WallStreet character, Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas). Greed is good.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
How else to explain a November schedule which includes MAC conference games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, all for the marginal amount of money paid by television for scheduling games on those nights. But NO games on Saturday in November. Not ONE game.
I will give secondary conferences such as the MAC a pass if they want to increase their exposure by playing some games during the week, although, I am totally opposed to the Tuesday and Wednesday night packages.
The MAC opened its Weeknight marathon last week with Miami (Ohio) traveling to Ohio and Bowling Green traveling to Kent State on Halloween. The following night Central Michigan traveled to Western Michigan. All bus trips of three and a half hours or less, but made during the week and presumably late at night after the game.
Trick or treat?
Last Tuesday was also Games 6 and 7 of the World Series. Forget that it was a school night and that any kind of game-day atmosphere you would find on a fall Saturday afternoon in the Midwest was totally missing.
And please in the future, let the MAC officials refrain from uttering the phrase of "student-athlete--when games are held (even within driving distance from each school) in the middle of the week which can adversely affect as many as three days of class scheduling for the athletes.
Or what about the fans of those schools who actually have jobs and still want to support their teams?
The MAC wants the extra dollars as well as what it feels is exposure, which is the reason it signed a deal with the devil (in this case ESPN) in 2014 for exclusive rights to all MAC sporting events through 2026-2027
Here's what MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said when the deal was announced. ""This is a historic day for the Mid-American Conference.”' Steinbrecher elaborated, ""ESPN and the MAC have a long history together and were visionary in embracing mid-week football which continues to be a significant presence on the ESPN college football calendar.''
The payout for this exposure? According to several reports, each school was expected to bring in an extra $670,000 a season for the length of the 10 year contract. For schools on tight budgets that sounds good.
But there isn't a MAC school that couldn't make 7 figures by playing a "guaranteed'' game against a team from the SEC or Big 10. Guaranteed games are those which lesser conference teams are "guaranteed'' huge payouts for playing games at Power 5 conference schools.
The party line offered by the MAC is that this is exposure the MAC would never get by playing on Saturday.
But here's the kicker to THAT deal. The Tuesday and Wednesday games have competition from other MAC schools.
This week, for example, Miami, Bowling Green, Kent State and Akron are playing on Tuesday night, while Ohio, Buffalo, Western Michigan and Central Michigan are playing on Wednesday night. The MAC is competing against itself for television ratings.
Does any of that make sense?
And again, I understand the value of some exposure for games during the week with no other college football competition, but why not limit that to a game each Thursday or Friday night, with the remainder of the games on Saturday.
Arguing against this, of course is foolish because ESPN rules the college football television world and if the world wide leader decided that it could get decent ratings at 7 am Sunday morning, there would be games played on Sunday morning.
As far as the overall benefit of the student-athlete and the atmosphere of a true November college football weekend on a fall Saturday afternoon? Or pulling players out of classes?
That really doesn't matter anymore. College football is a bottom line business run by people who are more familiar with spread sheets than playbooks.
So enjoy this weekend and the rest of the weekends in November as college football--which I am more certain now than ever before produces the greatest regular season in sports--concludes another season.
I will enjoy watching. So will the schools from the MAC who no longer have a seat at the main table.[/membership]