Category Archives: It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

No conference can serve two masters.

The Mountain West has to choose between that sweet, sweet television revenue and asses in the seats.

At the University of Wyoming, the trade-off the Mountain West is making for television is apparent.

The Cowboys drew more fans to Memorial Stadium for each afternoon game in September against nonconference foes Gardner-Webb and Texas State than they did for the conference opener against Hawaii, which kicked off at 8:15 p.m. Mountain time.

The Hawaii game was broadcast on ESPN2 as part of a deal that pays the Mountain West more than $100 million over seven years. The Texas State game was streamed exclusively on Facebook, which pays the conference nothing for the content.

The Mountain West has three years left on the TV contract that puts most of its members’ home football games on an ESPN channel or CBS Sports Network. As conference officials ponder their next move, the Mountain West is experimenting with alternatives to traditional broadcasting and weighing whether filling all those late TV windows is worth the money its members are making.

Actually, the TV money isn’t that sweet — about $1.1 million from their deals — which is what makes this a closer call than, say, the Pac-12’s, also home to the same dilemma. (HINT:  TV is winning.)

Ironically, their situation is more complicated because of Boise State.

Boise State’s membership agreement gives the school an additional $1.8 million, approximately, per year…

Then there is Boise State. Back in 2012, when the Broncos were still new to the Mountain West and not far removed from their BCS-busting days, they were wooed by the then-Big East during conference realignment. To keep Boise State, the Mountain West agreed to a deal that guaranteed the school more appearances on ESPN and more TV revenue than the other schools.

Going forward the agreement calls for the rights to Boise State’s home games to be negotiated separately from the rest of the conference.

Boise State is still a perennial contender in the Mountain West, leading the Mountain Division this season, but the Broncos have only won the division once in the last four seasons. Whether Boise State still deserves special treatment is something the rest of the conference wants to consider before another television deal is struck.

“I don’t want to say Boise’s brand is different, but when they came off Fiesta Bowl runs they were a national story. They’re not there today. They’re still excellent,” Burman said. “Boise still has a brand that’s different than the rest of us. But that discussion needs to happen between presidents and the commissioner about what does Boise merit three years from now and how does this get resolved.”

Boise State AD Curt Apsey said the school is open to having that discussion. He also added that while the Broncos and their fans would welcome more day games, they can’t come at the expense of TV revenue.

“It would be very difficult for us to give up the TV money and make it up in ticket sales,” he said.

Yep, the school that believed it should be treated like the big national kids cut itself a special deal that is no longer justified.

Maybe it’s a negotiating tactic.

Thompson is cautious about playing his negotiating hand with ESPN and CBS publicly, but the reality is this: If Mountain West teams want to play less night and weekday games it will drive down their value to traditional TV partners. But maybe it’s worth it.

“Yes, you’d hate to have to replace (the revenue). But does it put us out of business? No,” Thompson said. “However, I’m not an AD and they may say, ‘You’re an idiot for making that kind of statement.'”

Or maybe they’re just caught between a rock and a hard place.

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Get me outta here, Percy.

Mike Bianchi does his perennial troll of the SEC’s Mississippi members — “If the major conferences were starting from scratch today and holding a draft; UCF and USF would be in and Ole Miss and Mississippi State would be out.” –and enlists USF’s Charlie Strong in support.

“Without a doubt,” Strong told me Wednesday on our “Open Mike” radio show. “With the job we’re doing here at USF and the job they’re doing at UCF, we can go beat those people [Power Five teams] right now. Just think if we had their resources. … The only thing they have that’s different from us is that they are Power Five. There’s nothing else. That’s it. We have as many good players [as some of these programs]. They just have Power Five status.”

Meanwhile, in private, Strong is supposedly singing a different tune.

Practically every week this season, South Florida coach Charlie Strong has pleaded with fans to fill Raymond James Stadium, even making some critical comments about attendance. And every week, USF fans have failed to respond.

Though South Florida is 5-0 and ranked 16th, just 24,325 people showed up (announced) for its last game against Temple and it’s doubtful things will be that much better on Oct. 14 for Cincinnati. That is just one of many frustrations Strong has voiced privately this season about coaching at the Group of Five level, according to a person familiar with Strong’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That person told USA TODAY Sports they would not be surprised if Strong got in the mix for Power Five openings, despite his affinity for the Tampa area.

Though Strong’s Texas experience was a disaster, he’s 58-37 as a college head coach and will likely win 10 or more games this season at USF. He’s still a marketable name in the business and has a good track record, a good recruiting reputation and a likable personality. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him involved with Ole Miss…

LOL. Talk about if you can’t beat ’em…

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Ah, Jesus.

C’mon, Jerry Falwell, Jr.  Can’t you keep politics out of college football?

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The difference between a “mix” and a spot

We finally learn there’s a bridge too far even for Bill Hancock’s shilling.

The playoff director is at Mountain West media days and during his open media session he discussed the playoff, and that includes him saying that “absolutely” a team from the Group of Five has a chance to make the playoff.

Hancock also went on to say that an unbeaten Mountain West champion would be in the mix for a spot in playoff. The key word there is “mix,” because it will take a special season for any team from a non-power conference to have a chance to make the playoff, and that special season would have to be accompanied by a bit of chaos at the top.

Bless his heart.  I doubt even the Mountain West commissioner bought that.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant

The early bird catches the scheduling conflict.

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga has struggled with attendance the past couple of seasons and is asking itself why.  One of the problem areas (and a potential solution) mentioned gave me a chuckle.

… Some fans complained about the start times — 11 of the 13 home games the past two seasons have started at 4 p.m. or earlier — but the thought is that later start times would yield similar attendance figures.

The administration has preferred earlier start times to try to maximize the number of people in the stands, with the thought that fans of SEC schools could go watch a UTC game, then get home in time to watch their favorite program play.

Evidently there must not be many Mocs fans who follow Georgia football.

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Wishing won’t make it so.

The American Athletic Conference now refers to itself as a “Power Six” conference.

Good luck with that, fellas.

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Live, in front of a television audience

The MAC decides to boldly go where no other conference has gone.

You either love MACtion or you hate America. Pick a side, comrade.

While you’re deciding, take a look at the vast array of dates this November when Mid-American Conference football games will be showcased: 11/1, 11/2, 11/7, 11/8, 11/9, 11/14, 11/15, 11/16, 11/21 and 11/24.

That seems like a lot of game days, especially since there are only four Saturdays in college football’s most critical month. November contains 30 total days. Ten of them will feature MACtion.

Guess which day of the week won’t have any?

NOVEMBER IN THE MAC, 2017
NOVEMBER DAY MAC GAMES
TUESDAY 12
WEDNESDAY 7
THURSDAY 4
FRIDAY 3
SATURDAY 0

Imagine being a season ticket holder and seeing this. Now blink, makes some weird noises and imagine how quickly you just decided to stop being a season ticket holder.

There’s only one reason to do that, and, podnah, you know what that is.

It’s not hard to see that ESPNthe MACquietly made a financial decision to transform its flagship sport from a live in-person rite of college life into made-for-TV programming for the masses for the sake of margins. The casual smattering of fans in their stands is set to shrink even more, and the atmosphere that makes November college football so great will be replaced with a figurative green screen, along with literal green.

On the bright side, I bet you can pick up a Tuesday night ticket to watch the Zips play for pennies on the dollar.  Maybe a penny on the dollar, now that I think about it.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major