Mid-American Conference football: A lesson in Scheduling 101

I’ve made the blanket statement more than a few times in talking to people in casual conversation:  “television controls sports scheduling – especially football.” 

After participating in an exercise sponsored by the Mid-American Conference Wednesday the perspective has broadened just a wee bit.

A group of MAC beat writers participated in said exercise led by officials of the conference, including commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, deputy commissioner and COO Bob Gennarelli and associate commissioner media and public relations Ken Mather.

How did it help modify my views?  A little education is a helpful thing.

Gennarelli is the principal behind MAC scheduling in football. In the month of November he’s not likely to be a popular guy if the mid-week nights that host MACtion possess a winter bite to them.

This is the first season the MAC will have no football games in the month of November.  When some fans realized that, they went into meltdown mode.

In fact, while sitting during this four-hour conference, a few people tweeted “more Saturday games” or “play on Saturdays” to me.

They get it.  I get it. ESPN gets it.  Reality, however, is a trickier thing.

Change is difficult, a clichéd, lazy old adage, right? Certainly, but it’s old because it has the benefit of possessing more than a grain of truth.

The reality:  a majority of college football fans on any given Saturday will want to watch Power 5 football teams. The MAC deserves credit for at least understanding that. That is why fans see all of those mid-week games. The nights are available and now, they are branded on ESPN.  In that regard, the MAC is ahead of the rest of the so-called Group of 5 conferences.

People have argued that attendance at those games dwindle.  Truth is: if there’s a compelling matchup, people will come.  Those late season games are the ones with the most at stake generally. They will be well attended if there is something at stake and college football junkies will be able to get their fix.

Keep in mind, however, television isn’t the only criterion for scheduling.  The MAC football schedule goes a significant list of scheduling parameters before TV even sees it.  Is it subject to tweaks then?  Certainly.  After all,  ESPN is paying for broadcast rights and it only makes sense that they want to showcase the best possible games.

Last observation: good luck setting up a perfect schedule. This year Gennarelli had 38 different versions of the football schedule.  He eventually settled on schedule No. 4. 

As part of the conference, they had the journalists there work on their own schedule using the MAC’s parameters. I had a headache after 30 minutes.


Any questions on this or any other matter?  I’m on Twitter: @GeorgeThomasABJ