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Volume 26 No. 207

College Football Preview

ACC Network is set to televise five football games involving conference teams this week
Photo: ESPN IMAGES
ACC Network is set to televise five football games involving conference teams this week
Photo: ESPN IMAGES
ACC Network is set to televise five football games involving conference teams this week
Photo: ESPN IMAGES

The ACC Network airs its first football game tonight with Georgia Tech-Clemson, though the net still "has no deals with Cox cable, Comcast cable (Xfinity) or the Dish Network," according to Mark Berman of the ROANOKE TIMES. The channel, which launched Aug. 22, will "televise five football games involving ACC teams this week." Virginia area customers of cable companies yet to pick up ACC Network have "expressed their frustration" due to the number of games on the channel involving either Virginia or Virginia Tech. UVA's first three football games, including Saturday's opener at Pitt, is on the channel, while it also will "televise two of Virginia Tech's first three football games, including Saturday's opener at Boston College" (ROANOKE TIMES, 8/29). Syracuse AD John Wildhack said, “We’re right on track with the projections that the conference and ESPN gave us. We’re in more homes when it launched than the Big Ten Network was (when it launched). We’re in far more homes than the Pac-12 Network is now, so we think the launch was a successful launch.” Wildhack noted conversations continue with Cox, Comcast and Dish and said, "Hopefully in time, ESPN will be able to bring those distributors on-board.” Wildhack: "Clearly the goal is to have every distributor on-board” ("Syracuse Sports Podcast, SYRACUSE.com, 8/28). 

GAME CHANGER: Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said, "To be able to have a network that's constantly talking about the ACC, not only talking about the ACC but promoting our league and giving all of our teams a platform all day every day, we've not had that." Swinney: "Now we have that. And it's a game-changer." He added, "The content, brand awareness, and then also the rhetoric. We live in this rhetoric world. Now the ACC has its own channel and own people that will sit around and talk about our league every day. I'm excited about it" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/27).

ALL ACCESS PASS: In Louisville, Lucas Aulbach noted a "behind-the-scenes look" at Louisville's football team "airs this weekend on the ACC Network." The program, "All Access: Louisville Football," will air at 9:00pm ET on Sunday, ahead of the team's "season opener a day later against Notre Dame." New football coach Scott Satterfield arrived in December, and "cameras have been rolling for much of that time." The "All Access" show will be "in the same style as the NFL's 'Hard Knocks,'" and could "provide the closest look yet at how Satterfield runs the show, from the sidelines at practice to the meeting room" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 8/28).

CARRIAGE ISSUE: In Syracuse, Mark Weiner noted U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) "wants to know if Spectrum cable violated a consumer fraud settlement" with the state by moving to "block some customers from receiving the new ACC Network." Brindisi reacted to a report that found Charter-Spectrum "won't provide legacy Time Warner Cable customers with the ACC Network unless they switch to a Spectrum cable package." That move affects about 18% of Spectrum customers in Central N.Y. Brindisi said that he will "ask Spectrum and parent company Charter Communications to provide a justification for excluding legacy customers of Time Warner Cable from the new network" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 8/28).

Fox recruited Bush on the premise of being able to share the studio with former teammate Matt Leinart
Photo: FOX SPORTS
Fox recruited Bush on the premise of being able to share the studio with former teammate Matt Leinart
Photo: FOX SPORTS
Fox recruited Bush on the premise of being able to share the studio with former teammate Matt Leinart
Photo: FOX SPORTS

Fox this fall with its new kickoff show "will look to capitalize" on Reggie Bush's name relevance in the college football community, according to Antonio Morales of THE ATHLETIC. Bush has "been gone for almost a decade and a half," yet his name "still reverberates throughout the college game." When Fox Sports Exec Producer and Exec VP/Production & Operations Brad Zager "mapped out Fox’s new kickoff show, this aura Bush possesses was exactly what he wanted." He said, "We wanted this show to have relevant, major college football players and coaches. ... Of this generation, if you’re going to do a Mt. Rushmore, Reggie’s on it." Zager pitched Bush on the idea of joining Fox "over dinner in Atlanta during Super Bowl week, while Bush was still with NFL Network." He stressed that Bush "would be on a broadcast with his peers, big names and relevant coaches from the college world, and emphasized the chance to reunite" with former USC teammate Matt Leinart (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/27).

TEAM BUILDING: In L.A., Helene Elliott notes Bush on the new show, in addition to working with Leinart, will be joined by Urban Meyer, Brady Quinn and host Rob Stone. The show will "debut on Saturday from the Fox studios" in L.A. The new studio crew "quickly creating a distinct and likable identity is crucial to drawing and keeping viewers." This group "can rely on its exceptional resumes" to do so, but the "challenge is to be entertaining while they share their knowledge." Bush said, "I’m not going to try to be anybody else or try to use this show as competition vs. ESPN. I love what 'GameDay' does. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time. So I just think now we have something special here and we have our opportunity to make a mark and I love that Fox is behind it." The crew said that they "expect to slide into roles without being shoved into a mold." Leinart: "The more we’re together you just naturally find your niche on a show, whatever that is" (L.A. TIMES, 8/29).

HIGH NOON: In this week's SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand writes Fox' move to "schedule its highest quality college football game in the noon window on Saturdays this season is so intriguing" because the decision to "emphasize an early afternoon window at the expense of prime time would seem to fly in the face of almost every TV strategy of the past 50 years." However, Fox execs say that their plan is "a lot less risky than some would think." They view that time as a "generally under-served window with much less competition than other, more popular windows." Fox Sports Exec VP and Head Of Strategy & Analytics Mike Mulvihill said, "My No. 1 goal is that we should win noon by a wider margin than any network wins any other window. If we can do that, then I’m going to feel like the strategy was a success." Mulvihill added that he expects Fox' college football ratings to "build as the season wears on" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/26 issue).

Neutral site nonconference games have been a "staple of the Southeast region for years and such marquee matchups could be coming to the Pac-12 footprint in the near future," according to James Crepea of the Portland OREGONIAN. The under-construction Inglewood stadium is "interested," and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas already plans to host Arizona-BYU to open the '21 season. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "It’s been a priority for us to create more of those opportunities, to support more opportunities of those (games) for our schools, particularly closer to home." This Saturday, Oregon opens the season against Auburn in the Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Oregon previously played LSU in Dallas in '11, and USC is scheduled to face Alabama at AT&T Stadium to open the '20 season. Oregon is also scheduled to play Georgia in the '22 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosted Washington and Auburn to open the '18 season (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/29).

SEC COUNTRY: The AP's Steve Megaree noted Alabama meets Duke in Atlanta on Saturday and South Carolina plays UNC at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. But these neutral-site showdowns "might not be so common several years from now." More of them "eventually could take place on campuses instead of NFL stadiums." SEC schools are "upgrading future schedules by adding noteworthy home-and-home nonconference series, though some of those games are a decade away from happening." The SEC has "led all conferences in average attendance every year" since '98, but it is "not immune to recent industry-wide struggles to attract spectators." ADs have said that fans "want stronger home schedules," and programs "often make more money from a home game than a neutral-site contest." But Peach Bowl President & CEO Gary Stokan, who oversees the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, "believes neutral-site games will keep thriving even as more teams add home-and-home series." Mercedes-Benz Stadium will "host eight Chick-fil-A regular-season matchups" from '20-24, including three next season (AP, 8/28).

NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: Kansas State AD Gene Taylor said that they are "exploring the possibility of moving at least one of their future home games to a neutral venue," most likely Arrowhead Stadium or AT&T Stadium. Taylor: "We have had some interest and a couple stadiums that have asked us to consider it.” But he "cautioned a deal was far from imminent." In Wichita, Kellis Robinett notes the "most likely future K-State football game that could receive a venue switch seems to be Stanford" in '21. Not only is it an "appealing matchup for a neutral-site game between Big 12 and Pac-12 opponents, but the Wildcats currently have eight home games" slated for the '21 season. Taylor's comments also came one day after Missouri agreed to move their '20 regular-season home finale against Arkansas, as well as another future game, to Arrowhead Stadium (WICHITA EAGLE, 8/29).

The Wildcats have sold over 33,000 non-student season ticket packages for this football season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Wildcats have sold over 33,000 non-student season ticket packages for this football season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Wildcats have sold over 33,000 non-student season ticket packages for this football season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Season ticket sales for Kentucky football "seem to have gotten a boost from last year’s historic campaign" when they finished second in the SEC East, but they "still trail all but one year" during coach Mark Stoops' six year tenure, according to Josh Moore of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. UK Dir of Strategic Communication Guy Ramsey said that the school through Tuesday had "sold 33,178 paid, non-student season ticket packages" for '19. In addition, more than 5,000 of those packages "were new sales." That total is "up from 30,212 such packages" in the '18 season, a 9.8% increase year over year, but is the "second-lowest total under Stoops." Stoops’ first season ('13) "remains the highest mark" for season ticket packages during his tenure. That year, UK "sold 40,872 season tickets" ahead of the school's home opener against Miami (Ohio) (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 8/29).

ON THE RISE: In Minneapolis, Megan Ryan noted Minnesota football attendance at TCF Bank Stadium last season "dropped to a 26-year low," as the school's "average announced attendance was 37,915, while their average number of tickets scanned was 22,656." As of Monday, the school had "sold 46,553 tickets" for tonight's opener against South Dakota State. A UM spokesperson said that their season-ticket sales of 21,614 are "on pace to surpass last year’s total of 21,663." The school is "optimistic for an attendance rebound this fall." Aside from last season's Iowa-Minnesota rivalry game, the home schedule "lacked marquee matchups." This year "includes visits from Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/27).

NOT A FULL DAM: In Oregon, Nick Daschel notes season ticket sales at Oregon State "are flat," as the school has "sold just over 13,000 season tickets" for '19, about 85% of the 15,393 it sold last season. OSU will "continue to sell season tickets through the Cal Poly game on Sept. 14, and that number could significantly increase" depending on the team's performance the first two weeks of the season. OSU Deputy AD/External Affairs Zack Lassiter "shrugs his shoulders" when asked if Reser Stadium will "come close to its capacity of 45,674" for its opener against Oklahoma State tomorrow.Daschel: "How about 40,000?" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/29).

NOTES: San Diego State Exec Associate AD/External Relations Steve Schnall said that one week before Saturday's season opener, season ticket sales "stood at 11,658." That figure is a 15% "decline from last season’s total of 13,648" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/27)....Fresno State officials said that they are "seeing an uptick in season tickets for this year's home schedule." Fresno State AD Terry Tumey said, "We've already surpassed what we did as an entire season last year. We're almost at 18,000 season tickets at this point so we're market-ably above where we were last year" (ABC30.com, 8/26).

Alcohol had previously only been available in suites at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Alcohol had previously only been available in suites at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Alcohol had previously only been available in suites at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Oklahoma Senior Associate AD/External Operations Kenny Mossman said that security measures at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium "have been taken to reflect" the school's change in policy regarding alcohol sales this season, according to Joe Mussatto of the OKLAHOMAN. Beer was "available at OU basketball, baseball and softball games earlier this year as part of a pilot program." The university BOR "approved the sale of alcohol at football games in May," after former OU President David Boren in '15 "dismissed the idea of widespread beer sales at football games." Alcohol had "previously only been available in suites." The regents "shifted course" when former OU President Jim Gallogly was in office prior to his retirement in May. But OU AD Joe Castiglione said that "fans caused the change." In '18, 52 FBS programs "offered beer at football games." Meanwhile, the Oklahoma State police department through five home football games last season "saw a decrease in 'alcohol contacts' from the previous year when beer wasn't sold at Boone Pickens Stadium" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/29).

ALL HANDS ON DECK: Texas A&M will begin selling beer and wine to the general public at Kyle Field for tonight's season opener against Texas State, and THE ATHLETIC's Andy Staples writes alcohol sales will be the "result of a hectic summer spent making sure it will be possible to slake the combined thirst of a crowd expected to top 100,000." Food and beverage staff at the stadium that "numbered about 1,500 for last year's season finale against LSU will grow to about 1,800" for tonight's game. Concessionaire Levy "built draft beer bars into some concourses and will use portable stands in other areas" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/29).

ON TAP: In New Jersey, Keith Sargeant reports Gourmet Dining "signed a multi-year deal" with Rutgers to become the school's "new concessions vendor." Fans starting Friday at the UMass-Rutgers season opener at SHI Stadium "can purchase alcohol at concession stands in general-seating areas." The "price point" for wine is $11 while beer prices are "expected to range between $11 and $12" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 8/29).

Coors Light's deal to become the first-ever beer sponsor for ESPN’s "College Gameday" did "not require any regulation changes at the brewer or cable network," according to E.J. Schultz of AD AGE. Disney Ad Sales Senior VP/Consumer Packaged Goods & Beverages Patricia Betron said that ESPN had a sponsorship opportunity "come open previously held by General Motors that Coors Light filled." Coors Brand Family VP/Marketing Ryan Reis said that the deal "builds on MillerCoors’ existing endorsement deal" with "GameDay" host Kirk Herbstreit, who has "previously appeared in social media advertising for Coors Light." Under the deal, the game picks segment of the show "will now be known as 'Coors Light Saturday Selections.'" The brand also "plans to run commercials during the program from its new 'Made to Chill' campaign" from Leo Burnett, Chicago. One of the spots "plugs Coors Light as 'the official beer of Saturday morning.'" Separate from the ESPN deal, Coors Light "plans to deploy a branded Airstream trailer on college campuses where 'GameDay' is broadcasting." Other "Gameday" sponsors include AT&T, Coca-Cola, Geico, Goodyear, Hershey's and Pizza Hut, which "all sponsored the show last year" (ADAGE.com, 8/28).

McAfee is bringing his over-the-top attitude and personality to ESPN's Thursday night football booth
Photo: ESPN IMAGES
McAfee is bringing his over-the-top attitude and personality to ESPN's Thursday night football booth
Photo: ESPN IMAGES
McAfee is bringing his over-the-top attitude and personality to ESPN's Thursday night football booth
Photo: ESPN IMAGES

In N.Y., Andrew Marchand writes new ESPN college football game analyst Pat McAfee is "fiercely independent, which is what makes him genuine, but could be considered dangerous for a Disney-owned" network. McAfee, who will work Thursday night telecasts this season, "might turn out to be a 2.0 football version of Dick Vitale." His "looseness is his appeal," and "like Dickie V, you will know he is there." That "could be a good thing to a lot of people, but maybe not for others." McAfee makes his debut in the booth tonight at 7:00pm ET for UCLA-Cincinnati (N.Y. POST, 8/29).

HOPING TO HIT THE MARK: ESPN VP/Production Lee Fitting admits the net is taking a "calculated risk" by putting TV newcomer Mark Sanchez in ABC's main studio alongside Kevin Negandhi and Jonathan Vilma. Fitting said, "He's never done TV and I'm sure some people are like, 'What are you doing here?'" However, he listed Sanchez' attributes as having been a QB at big school (USC) and that he can "relate to the modern athlete" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/29). 

CAMPUS TIES: Oklahoma State play-by-play announcer Dave Hunziker will become the "longest-serving radio voice in OSU history" when he calls Friday's game against Oregon State. This will be Hunziker’s 19th season, and he has "provided a loyal and constant and familiar voice" and a "down-home demeanor and attitude" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/27)....LSU play-by-play announcer Chris Blair said that the entire crew at LSU Sports Radio Network "will be back this season." He will be in the booth alongside long-time color commentator Doug Moreau, while Gordy Rush returns as sideline reporter. Blair said that he "doesn’t worry about trying to please every single listener with his call or his style" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 8/26).