Color Me Pleased
By Jim Alderson, 3/24/00

Like all of you, I have read with raised eyebrow the news of the Big East's television package with ABC/ESPN, which came within days of Will informing us there wasn't going to be much going on. It should come as no surprise that I have an opinion.

I was told (actually, e-mailed) a few years ago by someone in a position to know (a CBS Sports executive), that our exposure problem was not so much a vast media conspiracy to keep us off television, or the fact that we were in a small media market. The main stumbling block was that we were a small media market in somebody else's media territory. Like it or not, and most Tech fans do not, we remain a Big East team in the ACC's market.

From the time the CBS contracts were signed, two things happened. One contract, the one with the SEC, threw off cash and made everybody happy. The other, with the BE, bled money like New Coke in the Eighties. We, the schools, were making out like bandits, but the folks signing the checks, the network, weren't faring so well. The financially prudent thing to do was what CBS did: cut their losses with the loser and limit Big East exposure to mostly the team with the proven ratings muscle, the Canes.

We fared much better with the other portion of the television contract, that with ESPN. They have a long history of developing underdogs (watch what happens to NASCAR when ESPN is no longer hyping them) along with a dominant ratings brand name, the Saturday night prime time game (when was the last time you watched a Saturday night Big 12 or Pac 10 game on Fox Sports Net? Few others do, either).

ESPN had much to do with out participation in the Sugar Bowl. How many games did you watch of the school that has come the closest to matching our football accomplishments in the last decade, Kansas State? Job One in television negotiations, it would seem to me, was to maintain that ESPN contract. And, given the tendency of the ABC/ESPN gang to vertically integrate their sports properties, ABC isn't a bad place to be. They already hold ACC rights, and for the first time we have a network television contract that encompasses our natural market area, which ain't a bad thing to have (think East Carolina).

I have read concerns about a scenario that might force state ABC affiliates to choose between a Tech BE game and a UVA ACC game. I really don't see that happening; the ABC brass aren't idiots. There will not be any overlapping market coverage between us and the Hoos, or Florida $tate and the Canes, for that matter. We will all get our dates, as long as Frank Beamer and his staff continue to put an exciting and successful product on the field, which looks to me like a long time.

Some of the more exciting ACC games that Uncle Walt's Disney network televised around Virginia last year were Maryland-Florida $tate, NC State-Georgia Tech and my personal favorite, North Carolina-Maryland (CBS telecast Alabama-Tennessee that particular Saturday. Yikes!) All together now Mouseketeers, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. My guess is that the aforementioned games are going to find themselves bounced from network television. Hello, Raycom.

From ABC's standpoint, they now have available college football product in the ACC region that includes two of the region's three best teams, Tech and Miami, which they didn't have before. ABC/ESPN now controls the Virginia Tech-Virginia game, which can be expected to increase in stature as they two programs grow under one television entity with its attendant promotion, as well as the Miami-Florida $tate biggie.

There is something else that has occurred to me about the new contract. Tech and Miami now have television contracts with the dominant network in our region. There will be no more artificial lines drawn around Virginia and South Florida by CBS executives. We are all with the same network under the same ACC coverage area. It seems to me this is de facto conference expansion. Who knows where that might lead somewhere down the road? It also has crossed my mind that major OOC games are mostly scheduled in network executive suites. We have suddenly become much more attractive to members of other conferences under the ABC umbrella, which is almost all.

So count me among those pleased with the new television contract, although, for some reason, Tranghese did not solicit my prior approval. We may lose the national potential of a CBS game, which has happened so far, what, once? But, we are now in bed with the network that not only controls football in our region, but most everywhere else as well. It will work out fine.

Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.


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