Saturday, January 31, 2015

Michigan/Utah (not so fast), the Move of the Big 12-SEC Challenge and the '15 Pac-12 Football Championship

* If you were watching the Kent St. at Buffalo last night (1/30) on ESPNU and happened to listen to Jim Barbar promote ESPNU's national signing day coverage (or in my case, get up to switch to Side 4 of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories on your turntable), you might have caught the play-by-play man segue into discussion on Michigan and they note that the Michigan at Utah game would be on ESPN.  And I found that kinda odd, though Barbar is based in the heart of Big Ten country, so maybe he was given a heads up.

Anyways, I tweeted about that this morning, and got a reponse from the man who does a lot of the work on ESPN's college football scheduling.

So we're done here, at least for a few months.

* You may have heard that the Big 12-SEC Challenge is moving to from an early season event to being played in late January, specifically all games on Saturday, January 30th, 2016 and all games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU.  A few things that came to mind about this:

  • With four teams not participating each year, I would expect the SEC Network to carry either conference or non-conference games involving the other schools on that date.  In 2014, the SEC Network and ESPN3 carried unique productions of Auburn at Texas Tech.
  • I am running under the assumption that CBS cannot carry any of the SEC home games as part of this event.  I don't know how it is decided which SEC men's basketball games that CBS can air, but I assume there is a way to keep all the games for this event on ESPN platforms.  The same I believe is true for ESPN and its sublicensing of Big 12 games to CBS.
  • I am curious to see whether Kentucky & Kansas will be paired as opponents.  The two schools played as part of the Champions Classic event in 2014 and the next matchup between the two, assuming the same four schools stay in this event, would be in 2017.
* So why is the Big 12-SEC Challenge moving?  I have a theory, so humor me for the moment.

The basketball event ran in a Wednesday-Saturday block of programming the week after Thanksgiving in 2014 and Friday, arguably, had the two marquee games (Texas at Kentucky & Florida at Kansas), both on ESPN.  On ESPN2 the MAC Championship game aired.

Moving forward to 2015, ESPN again has the rights to the Pac-12 football championship game, and when they released their schedule, they left open the possibility of the game airing on Friday.  With the MAC championship presumably staying on Friday, ESPN2 was blocked, but to free up ESPN to potentially air the Pac-12 championship, they requested to move the basketball event.

To be fair, there are couple things up in the air when it comes to the possibility of playing the Pac-12 championship on Friday again.  
  • The NFL schedule.  It looks like the Falcons do not play a home game the day after the SEC Championship game, and the same for the Panthers with the ACC Championship.  I assume the 49ers have requested the NFL to be on the road that weekend.  Typically the conferences want control of the stadium for a couple days before the game if possible.
  • The attendance wasn't great for a Friday night.  Per Wikipedia, kickoff was a 9:21pm ET and there were 45,000+ in attendance.
  • With the game on cable and less beholden to the whims of broadcast TV and serving affiliates, the game could possibly start later if desired.
To be fair, I may have my tinfoil hat on for this one.  The American Athletic Conference also has its championship this weekend for the first time, but it seems they are locked into a Saturday championship game per their website.  C-USA (on ESPN Networks) & the Mountain West (currently CBS's option to carry) are also that weekend.  The Big 12 has two conference games available that weekend too. 

But because the Pac-12 left themselves open to the possibility of a Friday game, it kinda fits, at least for the moment.

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