Nov. 3, 2004
People often ask how football schedules are developed, particularly in light of this year’s schedule. First of all, the Atlantic Coast Conference controls the schedule for the conference games and schedules around our non-conference games. They use certain dates for television. This year’s conference schedule led off with two difficult teams – Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. That was done to enhance the television inventory.
It is always difficult to lead off with conference opponents, but that just goes with the territory. Texas A&M had been scheduled for quite some time. Then we ended up with conference expansion, which meant we traded Miami for North Carolina. We also traded Middle Tennessee for Texas A&M. And, of course, South Carolina is always a tough game and a great rival. Ideally, you like to have balance in your non-conference schedule – particularly when you have a solid conference like we have.
Our rival is South Carolina and they fill a slot every year as a name team from a strong conference. You’d like to play two other teams – preferably earlier in the year so you can develop depth, confidence and preparation for conference games. This year we did not have a chance to do that. Ironically, it will be somewhere around 2011 or 2012 before I can impact the schedule because the non-conference games have already been scheduled. I did impact the game with Oklahoma after we expanded and that was done by mutual agreement with OU.
I don’t want to offer the schedule as an excuse for anything. Yet, sometimes the schedule does not fall in your favor, which is what happened this year. Nevertheless, you have to play it. The goal of this program, however, is to develop the strength we need to have success in those years where the schedule does not fall in our favor.
This year’s schedule was out of balance in the sense that we started with two conference teams that will always be a fight for us. It used to be that people looked at Wake Forest and wrote that one off. People do not do that anymore. And Georgia Tech is always a battle. You follow that up with three teams that are in the top 15 – Texas A&M, Florida State and Virginia – on the road. When you are overloaded up front like that, you have minimal opportunity to develop your young people.
Often times it becomes a matter of survival in that you are not playing a lot of people in preparation for the conference run. You are in a dogfight every Saturday. If something bad happens – as was the case against Georgia Tech – it puts you back on your heels from a confidence perspective. Then you play a real strong opponent and there is little opportunity to catch your breath. We have to play the conference games given to us. The non-conference schedule has been set for many, many years. The hand that is dealt us, we have to play.
This year I’d be the first to tell you if we could reshuffle the deck, I wouldn’t deal the same hand we’ve had here. Again, that is not an excuse, but common sense tells us things. The great programs around the country will play some schools early that are not your ‘name teams’. They are going to develop some confidence and depth. There’s a reason for that. Having said that, you still get got by surprise sometimes.
Use Troy as an example and what they’ve done this year. Those schools can rise up and bite you from time to time. Next year will be more of the same for us, except that we will be playing some of those tough opponents at home. That obviously will help. I also get letters and emails from individuals who believe we control the times of games. That is much like scheduling in that you play the hand you are dealt. My first year here, we had North Carolina State, Maryland and South Carolina in night games. I had nothing to do with that. The networks had decided – before my arrival – those were the time slots they needed. That was what they wanted to do. Contractually you are obligated to play according to the times they set. Because of the inconvenience to our fans for those three games, we did our best to lobby in the off-season to minimize night games,
Since then, I think you can see we have minimized night games. That is not to say it can not happen to us in the future, but we are going to do our best to lobby on behalf of our fans for that not to happen. People may say it’s all about networks and money and that’s not the way it ought to be. If we want to support this total sports program, that’s the way it has to be. What we bring in at the gate and through contributions is not going to support all of our other sports. We simply can not survive without the revenue distribution from the conference television packages in football and basketball.
The ACC has an excellent revenue distribution program. It is very fair and is based on equal distribution. Some conferences have unequal appearance-based distribution based on number of appearances their football and basketball teams have on television. We are very fortunate to be in an excellent conference that will only get better with expansion.
Terry Don Phillips
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