Beyond the ACCtion: Men's Basketball Scheduling
July 17, 2008
“Beyond the ACCtion” is a special feature of theACC.com which offers insight in to the Atlantic Coast Conference, away from the field of competition.
As part of my job, I review all e-mails submitted through theACC.com’s feedback system. There are certain topics that are very popular during the various times of year. One of the goals of “Beyond theACCtion” is to provide more information about these topics to you, our fans.
As the summer winds down, the biggest question is “When is the ACC Basketball schedule going to be released?” The simple answer is that it is typically released in late August, but let’s venture beyond that.
This week’s guest blogger is Karl Hicks, the ACC’s Associate Commissioner for Men’s Basketball, addressing that very topic.
The scheduling process, both conference and non-conference, is one that really never ends. As soon as one year is complete, we begin working on the next.
ACC institutions schedule their own non-conference games; however, the conference office frequently assists by finding opponents to fill television windows or guarantee games. Guarantee games are typically one-shot deals whereby the hosting ACC institution pays a guarantee (stipend for travel, lodging, and incentive to play a road game) to the visiting team as opposed to returning the game at some future time on the visiting team’s home court or on a neutral court. We work with our counterparts in conference offices across the country to connect buyers (guarantee game hosts) with sellers (schools interested in receiving a guarantee to play a road game).
The ACC staff puts together the conference schedule. We gather information from our schools regarding schedule constraints (building conflicts, academic calendars, etc.) and provide it to a consultant who uses sophisticated linear programming software to spit out schedules. We consider many before we finally settle on the one that meets as many of our preferences as possible. The schedule comes to us in a Wednesday / Saturday format.
The ACC television partner, Raycom Sports, owns the rights to all ACC sports programming, including men’s basketball. What that means is that Raycom has the right to air via syndication any ACC men’s basketball game to interested stations across the conference’s geographic footprint or, conversely, to sell those rights to another carrier – a major “over-the-air” network like CBS or ABC, or to cable networks like ESPN, Fox Sports Net, Comcast Sports Net-Mid Atlantic or NESN, to name a few. Ultimately, Raycom does a combination of both.
Our television rights holders are tiered. Those with higher-level rights are the first to select ACC games to televise. Those with lower-level rights select later. Some rights holders have time-period exclusivity, which means that other partners who select games on the same dates cannot air them at the same time as the partner having exclusivity. (Example: Partner A has time-period exclusivity and has an ACC game in the 9 p.m. time slot on a given date. No other ACC games may air in the 9 p.m. time slot on that date.)
Throughout the summer our television partners select weekend games then weekday games by a predetermined selection process (some what akin to a draft). Games can be moved from Saturday to Sunday and from Wednesday to Tuesday or Thursday, depending on the entity that selects them as well as exclusivity issues. The ACC staff is very involved in the process. Our involvement is really for the purpose of ensuring (as closely as possible) competitive and exposure equity. Our partners select games based on criteria important to them and not necessarily on criteria important to us and our schools. We are partners, however, and at the end of the day it is in everyone’s collective interest that all needs are reasonably met.
I have gone on a bit here. I suppose now is a good time to answer your question. Many of our partners cannot make their final selections of games and windows until decisions are reached on their respective pro sports inventories. We must wait until these pro selections are made and their associated television windows are filled before some partners make their final decisions on ACC games. This is the last hurdle to the release of our schedule. As it is, we release before some final selections are made, but we can only hold the process for so long. Our schools need their schedules, and we endeavor to release them as soon as we can.
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