For years, the Mid-American Conference has grabbed a piece of the massive college football media rights pie with a showcase of Tuesday and Wednesday night games in November. The closeness and strangeness of these games created a social media frenzy, birthing the term #MACtion, and giving the conference exposure and a financial windfall it had never seen before.
Over time, these weeknight games have created consequences, mainly at the gate. Sparked by this critique of #MACtion from Dave Hackenberg of the Toledo Blade, the team here at Hustle Belt began our own discussion on the value of these games. Now, we bring that discussion to you.
Pull up a chair... it's roundtable time.
While I enjoy seeing the MAC on national TV now that I've moved out of the Midwest, I have never been a fan of the #MACtion slate of games. College football is strictly a moneymaking venture nowadays, but in my mind, that has been the only benefit for the conference and the member schools. The games are sloppy, poorly attended, and the broadcasts themselves seem like they'd rather be elsewhere.
With so many other outlets existing to watch college football games, most every game is now available to the masses in some capacity. I'd much rather see games played on a normal schedule with a decent crowd and a broadcast team that is somewhat more interested in being there. Plus, the toll a game like this takes on players and students who work these games isn't worth it on a weeknight, not to mention if a team is traveling for one of these games.
Plus, has the exposure been good for the MAC? Has the recruiting been kicked up a notch because a kid can now play a game on ESPN2 on a Wednesday? Around the country, the conference is still looked at with a curious glance, and the games are treated more like additional outlets for gamblers.
With the ESPN deal in place until seemingly the end of time, there's no end to this. And that's a shame, in my mind.
James H. Jimenez
I love #MACtion with all of my heart, I really do. Being able to bond with a community on a random weeknight in the middle of fall is pure happiness to me. However, the system that is currently in place for the weeknight games is truly awful.
Here's an example of how bad it is: my freshman year (2011) saw the Chips go 3-9. We only had one Saturday game at home and played a played a plethora of weeknight games at home, which didn't go particularly well. I recall one game where the student section had two people in it. TWO. As in one more than one. The NCAA threatened sanctions on Central Michigan unless that changed, and so Central scheduled huge Saturday match-ups with Michigan State, Kansas, OK State, and Navy.
This year, the same teams are playing all the weeknight games, including sliding Akron, MAC exiles UMass, the hapless Kent State, disappointing Ball State, and the "meh" Buffalo Bulls. Only Northern Illinois and Toledo are worth watching, and they already played one another. One you commit to one weeknight game, the rest of your conference schedule hinges on it. It must be truly awful as a player on a contending team to be in a constant state of paranoia about the division race. For a team that is losing, the lack of support, if any, is soul-crushing to a player.
I propose the following system:
- Starting in November, Wednesdays and Thursday night games will be on the table.
- Each team gets one game on a weeknight per season, hosting one year and being the guest the next.
- Keep the double header format, which would make the weeknight #MACtion as minimally impacting as possible on the schedule; this would give us three weeks of weeknight games.
- Teams about to play a weeknight game gets a bye either before or after the game is played, thereby eliminating the fatigue factor.
We're stuck with the ESPN contract, so we may as well try and get the most that we can out of it as a conference. This is the system I think best fits logistically, considering the plethora of factors. Go ahead and tear it apart if you like.
One thing I feel my colleagues have not mentioned enough is how the players feel about it. For them it really sucks. Midweek #MACtion throws off their entire schedule, screwing up their classes, their sleep schedule, and their daily routines. In talks with a couple BGSU players I found out how frustrating it is to not get a sufficient amount of rest before classes the next day, or to not have that lazy Sunday to recuperate their bodies before class on Monday. Players can handle for one week of this chaos, but when you have 4 midweek games in a row, like BGSU is doing this year, it' can be near impossible to keep up with everything. Another thing players have said was how much it sucked to have practice on the weekend. In respect to athletes that make the MAC what it is, I really feel that midweek #MACtion should be limited to one game a week.
Okay, but in all seriousness, I can't speak for all MAC fans. Not everybody lives as close to their favorite MAC venues as I do. I've never had to go to a Tuesday or Wednesday game at Rynearson because that just doesn't happen. I, personally, get to enjoy these Tuesday and Wednesday games from the comfort of my living room, in my jammies with a cup full of coffee and Bailey's. As much as I like sitting at home, throwing the ball around with the dog (she throws, I fetch, obviously), a lot of people really enjoy making the 4-6 hour drives to these games, but they can't make a weekend out of Tuesday night game when they'd have to go back home that same night because they've gotta work tomorrow morning. Then there's everybody that works at the games. Then there's the student-athletes who are also working at these games. My opinion on this has changed a ton in the past few weeks.
I don't think American football should be a thing in the first place if we're being 100 percent honest here. That's why I won't say what days these humans should play football, because it's a dangerous sport anyway. That's just me though. I'm sure you enjoy my bastardized opinion more when it was a .gif of a cymbal-clapping monkey.
No one else seems to be defending this standpoint, so I will: I love midweek MACtion. All this talk of how it's difficult for people to get to stadiums on a Tuesday night and drive back to get a short night's sleep before they go to work the next morning ignores a huge portion of the fan base: those of us who live so far away that we can't go on a Saturday, let alone a weeknight. Not every MAC fan or MAC alum lives in the conference's geographic footprint.
I live in Los Angeles, and next week, I'm going to be able to watch the Ohio-Miami game with a friend here in Los Angeles who went to OU. And we'll be able to do it at a bar during happy hour, and do it without worrying about whether the bar has some weird sports package that's outside the norm. Without weeknight games on ESPN2, I wouldn't be able to do that. So when people say that midweek games are bad because they're bad for the fans, remember that they're defining "fans" in such a way as to exclude those of us who can't be there in person in the first place.
So what say you?