April's here. Now that we've passed Easter, conferences and their TV partners will begin meeting to determine any additional special dates games (Black Friday, open Thursday & Friday slots) and do some mock scheduling to determine what games could be available on a given weekend. Some conferences like C-USA and the Mountain West will go through their entire schedule with their partners. So what are we waiting on
Last year, their 1st three weeks of television selections came out in May, about three weeks earlier than I expected to see it. If that date holds firm, ESPN and Raycom are working right now on those selections. I don't think they are working on any of the remaining open Thursday and Friday night opening, but maybe to fill the Black Friday slot on ABC that they had last year. I don't see any great choices for Black Friday. Although East Carolina elected to move a home game to that day, it has been explained to me that the NC high school playoffs are on that date and would not like a late afternoon kickoff that could keep fans from those games. South Carolina-Clemson and Florida-Florida St. are out there, but I don't see them moving, even though they would not affect any team's chance of appearing in a conference title game.
If ESPN plans on licensing any games for airing on Thursday or Friday night, they'll get to work on those. When ESPN has licensed Big 12 games for Thursday night in previous years, they've ended up altering the conference portion of the schedule slightly, so they'll need to work quickly if any alterations occur.
Any additional Thursday or Friday games may be tied to what ESPN does with the Big 12. We know that the Rutgers-USF game date could change.
Last year, the Big Ten night games weren't announced until May. There were suggestions that ESPN negotiated to get an extra game, not to mention that the parties may have been working on how to adjust their contract to account for the addition of Nebraska. Now that have stabilized a little, I'm expecting the announcement to revert back to April.
Two games (UCLA-Rice & East Carolina-UCF) were moved to Thursdays and Marshall-East Carolina were moved to Friday for an unknown television partner. My guess is that FSN takes two (UCLA-Rice & Marshall-ECU) and East Carolina-UCF goes to CBS Sports Network. C-USA is directly affected by how many additional Mountain West games end up on CBS Sports Network, not to mention having to work around the Army, Navy and Patriot League games on the network.
With the news of the mtn.'s demise, someone needs to make up for the loss of the network. Not to mention whether NBC Sports Network remains a carrier of Mountain West sports now that the mtn. no longer exists (I have an email out to the conference asking about that). Schools might end up being able to seek out their own regional partner for whatever games the national partner(s) does not carry. I think you could see a game or two get moved to Thursday and/or Friday nights to allow CBS Sports Network to carry a few more games from the conference. The conference has 63 games under its control this year, much more than previous years due to the ten team configuration.
I have an email out to the Pac-12 office asking what the deadline dates are for the conference's early selections and if telecast windows will be set in advance for ESPN and FOX. Previously, the ABC & ESPN selections and windows had to be decided on May 1st and the FSN and Versus selections by June 1st. There are several Thursday & Friday games out there without television designations and those could be announced at that time.
I don't think we'll hear anything from the SEC regarding television selections until their spring meetings in May. They're hard at work trying to figure out the right scheduling rotations going forward, but also need to work with CBS and ESPN (more likely just ESPN) to figure out how to get every game televised.
Army & Navy
Both of the independent service academies must have their kickoff times set by May 1st, so CBS Sports Network will be working on those as they set their network's schedule. In case you are curious, neither school will allow for night time Saturday games, nor weeknight games. Just 12pm or 3:30pm kickoffs on Saturdays. 9/15 and 11/03 are the Saturdays where both would play on the network.
BYU can fill some of the open Thursday and Friday night slots on ESPN. I would guess that they are actively in discussions with the network to determine which home games they are willing to move and what options are available for their Saturday home games, both in terms of network options and kickoff times.