June 19, 2019

Friday Night Lights is a Bad Look for ACC Football

Before branding me as an old man screaming “Get off my lawn!”, hear me out.  Clemson playing Boston College on a Friday night doesn’t effect me personally in the least.  I don’t have to change travel plans, my kid doesn’t play high school football, I don’t go to bars, I’m not going to miss work or school or any of the other myriad of things that people do on a Friday night.

On the contrary, it actually benefits me. A Friday night game enables me to get game related work done, either late that evening, or, more likely, early Saturday before the real conferences take the field at noon eastern.

So, this is not personal.  It’s practical and its common sense.  If you want to be a major conference in football, act like a major conference in football.

During my brief Twitter rant on Tuesday afternoon, my buddy Brandon Rink at orangeandwhite.com pointed out that Michigan State, Baylor, Stanford and Southern Cal all played on Friday nights last season.  Along with the AAC, Mountain West, BYU and other “Group of 5” teams.

Brandon was correct of course, but the Michigan State and Baylor Friday games were season openers (and non-conference), which makes it slightly different in my mind.  Stanford and Southern Cal play in a conference that routinely struggles to get media attention outside of the Pacific Standard time zone and generally plays on a channel that few can find off the top of their head, so it makes sense that they would try whatever they could to attract attention and play a stand-alone game.

Not only is Clemson playing a Friday night game, but Florida State is playing a Friday night home game, which begs the question how long till Clemson is forced to play a Friday night home game? If ESPN and the ACC can force Florida State to play a home game on Friday, they can force Clemson to play a Friday night home game.

Teams of Clemson and Florida State’s stature typically have 7 home games a year.  Seven days to bring in recruits (who typically play games on Friday night, by the way), seven times for fans to tailgate and congregate and enjoy the atmosphere of college football on campus.  Florida State now has 6.  Clemson’s time is coming.

The bigger issue to me, bigger than losing a Saturday game, hosting recruits and perhaps some attendance, is the message it sends to the rest of college football world. Bush League, Minor League, irrelevant, a joke. Take your choice or come up with one of your own.

One Friday ACC game in 2015 turns into 5 this year.  Watch out Swoffy, in a few years the entire ACC schedule might be played on Thursday and Friday, leaving Saturday clear for the properties that ESPN really cares about.

Make no mistake, ESPN owns the ACC.  That didn’t happen with the release of the 2016 schedule, but we sure were reminded of it Tuesday.  In a big way.  ESPN wanted college football on Friday.  ESPN wanted Clemson and Florida State on Friday. ESPN got what they wanted.

Spare me the “nobody would watch it on Saturday” line.  In 2015 Clemson vs. Boston College was good enough for prime time on Saturday, but 2016 Clemson vs. Boston College is relegated to a Friday night “so more people will watch”.

Spare me the “more people will watch it” spiel.  Sure, a few people will trip over the game while flipping through the channels and tune in.  But nobody, outside of Clemson and Boston College fans, in the key demographic for college football viewership (young males) are going to change their Friday night plans to watch the Tigers and Eagles.  Ludicrous.  “Sorry babe, we can’t go out tonight, Clemson and Boston College are on!” Stupid.  “No son, can’t take you to the father/son movie we talked about tonight, the Tigers and Eagles are about to duel!” Ridiculous.

An ACC team won a national championship after the 2013 season and another played for one two weeks ago.  The ACC has had a Heisman Trophy winner, an Outland Trophy winner, oodles of high draft picks and star players all over the field in the last 3 seasons.

And the ACC is treated like the WAC by ESPN.

Maybe it’s part of the contract, maybe it’s Swofford’s master marketing plan.  Either way it’s a horrible look for the conference.

Is Alabama playing on Friday?  That would be a sure way to increase viewership.  Clemson’s not at Alabama’s level you say? How about Vanderbilt or Kentucky, are they playing on Friday?  You get my point.

ESPN and Swofford have decided the two high profile teams should each lose being part of a Saturday of non-stop college football games, highlights and replays of about 16 hours and relegate them to being an afterthought barely mentioned after the Friday news cycle. Brilliant.

Playing on Friday night damages the conference’s reputation and the Clemson and Florida State brands.  The two institutions should be outraged.

Swofford talks a big game about the ACC being a power conference and deserving of being viewed as such, but his actions speak much louder than his words.

His actions scream the ACC is a sideshow not worthy of better time slots – or any time slot on Saturday – you know, the day that the big boys of college football typically play.

Swofford has two marquee teams, a recent national champion with a national brand and another that spent the last 4 months on the cover of Sports Illustrated, leading off SportsCenter and has become perhaps the fastest growing brand in college football.

Their reward? Each gets to play on a Friday night with the dregs of college football.


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