I wrote about this topic earlier, and brought up possibilities ranging from their own ACC Network, ala the Big Televen, to seeing if FOX or NBC wanted to expand into college football. But we I didn't really realize how bad it would get until it's started. And it's clear that 2011 (the year the ACC gets a new TV deal) can't come soon enough.
Maryland's game against JMU on Saturday was on ESPN360. Okay, I can live with that. It makes sense, I suppose. Maryland's game against Middle Tennessee State this week will be on ESPN360. I guess that's okay; I mean, it's not a marquee match-up, and I'll be the first to admit it. Still, it was on CSN last year, which is a step up.
Next is Rutgers. That's gotta be on at least ESPNU, right? I mean, if they televise Indiana vs. Akron and Louisiana-Lafayette against LSU - that matchup will be entertaining - they can fit that on schedule, surely? Nope. As it turns out, there are no schedule slots after 3:30 for the ACC for ESPN's networks thanks to the SEC and Big Ten deals, so any that aren't on Raycom are bumped down to ESPNU. This one was. If you're counting, that's three straight games on ESPN360.
At least with the start of ACC play most of the games will go to Raycom instead of ESPN. But Raycom is a below-average network, with poor image quality and commentators. Not to mention that they can't televise all the games, anyway. It's probably a guarantee that at least two of Maryland's games get bumped down to ESPN360 again - one game was last year, and that was when the ACC could play games later than 3:30.
For comparison's sake, Maryland had two games on ESPN360 in all of last year. They're already guaranteed to get more than that this year, and will probably have three times as many by the time it's all said and done.
This isn't meant to tarnish ESPN360 - it's a great service, and I love it, but it's not for this kind of thing. It's perfect for minor tennis or soccer matches, or FBS games, but it's not a great match for this. So many Maryland fans don't get it. It's not like you can go to a sports bar to catch it, either. I'm also getting tired of watching games on my computer already - I need a TV something fierce. ESPN360 is the lowest of the low - it's better than nothing, but not much better than anything else.
It's not just limited to Maryland. Clemson-TCU is a legitimate matchup between one very good and one solid team with an exciting player, but it's relegated to ESPN360. Same with Wake Forest-Boston College, which previously would've been at least a regional televised game.
We all knew this would happen, but it's still a bit of a shock that it did. The ACC is getting killed in the TV category, which hurts both recruiting and revenues. The TV deals will be negotiated after this year, and John Swofford & Co. need to get working on a real deal, whether it's with ESPN, FOX, their own network, whatever - ACC teams need to be able to be seen during real time slots on real networks. Please.