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Midweek #MACtion: Good Idea Or Bad Idea?

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The long-running weeknight football games on ESPN have given the MAC a lot of pros and a lot of cons. Hustle Belt contributors discuss which outweighs the other.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Corey Gloor

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.

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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.

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Carson Merk

When you're scrolling through the channel guide on your TV this week and see a pair of MAC Football games on both Tuesday and Wednesday, don't sigh in disappointment. Don't throw your hands up in disbelief. Don't change the channel to old sitcom reruns. Turn on the game. I know, that's crazy right? Wrong. I don't know about you, but getting through a week for me feels like an eternity, why not enjoy some midweek MACtion? You love football, you tune into ESPN from College Gameday till the end of the West Coast games on Saturdays. You can't get enough of the Power-5 conferences! There's no great talent in the MAC right? I don't know football fans, you tell me.

Big Ben drops back, shakes off a blitzer and uncorks a bomb down the field to a streaking Antonio Brown. Brown makes a man miss and glides into the end zone, followed by his new touchdown dance of the week. Shaun Suisham knocks in the PAT and it's 7 more points for Pittsburgh. That type of play happens all the time, almost once a game at least, why am I highlighting it? Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Shaun Suisham are all MAC alums. Tom Brady's trusted slot receiver? You guessed it... Julian Edelman, who made his name as a star at Kent State. The list goes on and on. Guys like James Harrison, Andrew Hawkins, Jason Babin, Greg Jennings, Victor Cruz (even though UMass wasn't in the MAC yet). Oh yeah, and throw 2 top 5 picks in the past 2 drafts, #1 overall pick in 2013 Eric Fisher and #5 pick in 2014 Khalil Mack.

So to me, just purely based on the entertainment, football value, I LOVE #MidWeekMACtion

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Matt Hammond

If you are a member of the MAC, your goal is to play for a division championship during weeknights in November. The problem is, many fans don't want to go watch a football game in 20 degree weather and terrible windchill when they know that they have to wake up 6-7 hours after they get home. Teams that play midweek games are typically put there because they are the better teams in the conference from the year before. This means that those teams should probably be playing for a MAC title. The problem is that not every team that plays midweek games is as good as they were last year. Kent State and Buffalo are prime examples. Not to mention, Kent State, Akron, Buffalo, and UMass already have attendance issues on Saturdays, so why would someone break their neck to go out and watch them late on a Tuesday night when they hardly ever go to the games on Saturday? Plus, the game is nearly always on T.V. unless it is flexed by ESPN like the Akron vs. UMass game was on Tuesday. There were so few people at that game that all fans could get free hot chocolate or coffee until the concession stands ran out. That's cool and all for the fans, but not necessarily a good thing from the viewpoint of the concessionaire or the people running the event.

The pros of midweek games include extended weeks for some of the teams and something for football fans to look forward to on a Tuesday night, but not much else, unless the players are trying to show the whole country how great they are. Basically, I think the cons outnumber the pros in midweek games. That doesn't mean I don't like them, I just don't love them like I thought I would. When I say that I mean that Akron hasn't played a midweek game since 2010. I was in middle school then and I had basketball practice that night. You could honestly say that the only midweek game I've ever gone to was the Akron vs. Bowling Green game on November 4. I didn't sit out in the cold rain for that game either. I was upstairs in the heated shelter with free refreshments called a suite. I can't imagine how painful it has to be to be a fan out there in the cold at 11:00 at night watching a slightly boring football game.

Long story short, I don't hate all midweek MAC games. One or two of them is a good number for each team, but four is way too many. I would rather go to a football game on a Saturday at noon than a game on Tuesday at 8:00 PM.

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Ricky Gerding

"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."

Corey nailed it right here. There is seemingly no end in sight. There will always be pros and cons of MACtion, but I recently came across some information as to why it's our teams that must suffer the fate of dealing with midweek games. I asked my sports marketing professor, who studied at Florida State, his opinion on the subject and his response was something I didn't really think of. Teams like FSU will never play host to midweek games, simply because their stadium is directly on campus. The university does not want 80,000+ people on campus at 11:30pm on a Wednesday. That's why they play teams like Louisville or Duke, where the stadiums are far enough away from campus, it will not hurt when thousands of people leave the games.

I also believe that it's not fair to some of the MAC teams, like Matt said above, Akron hadn't played a midweek game in four years. Some teams will not be a part of the national spotlight, simply because they aren't good. While the teams who are usually at the top (NIU, Toledo, BGSU) will get multiple midweek games. Is it fair? in my eyes, it's not, but it's not up to me. ESPN has complete control over who plays when, and while the universities are getting millions of dollars to play on Tuesday and Wednesday, they won't argue.

More arguments can also be made on whether MACton and playing on the national spotlight play apart in recruiting kids and saying, "hey, we are guaranteed three nationally televised games where you can show the country you deserve to play on Sundays."

With all of this being said, I will continue to support my conference no matter what. #MACtion4Ever

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Alex Alvarado


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Matt Gritzmacher

I'm not always the best to talk in questions of fan support because I don't see myself ever not supporting the school. But there's no doubt in Buffalo that midweek games come at the expense of a gameday experience that has improved in the last few years. The ESPN deal makes money, but it alienates many working fans who aren't willing to be out until midnight on a weekday. Somewhere you've got to be willing to find the balance there, because lots of money but few gameday traditions and a lackluster gameday experience are only going to get you so far.

It certainly doesn't help that no one except Johnny 'Tight Lips' Steinbrecher has any clue how much money we're actually getting from ESPN.

There's an argument to be made as well about the academic effects of a road trip in the middle of the week. I doubt any academic advisor is building a class schedule around three days in November, so you know it has an effect. I also believe it's a far bigger disruption in football than in basketball and other sports. I don't think it's the strongest argument you'll see, but it's there.

I also wasn't even aware until this discussion just how imbalanced the #MACtion was, and that some schools haven't hosted a weeknight game in years. I believe that weeknight games should be limited to two per school per year, one home and away. It might not be four per week, but the conference should still be able to fill midweek timeslots for ESPN with that stricture.

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Carter Adler

Mid-week football is a horrible horrible thing. Once upon a time I enjoyed it from afar, since it's never happened in Ypsilanti, but now that I've moved to Ohio I've experienced the phenomenon first-hand...and it's miserable.

Mid-week football is the bastard child of a conference desperately searching for attention, fighting for attention in the shadow of a B1G giant tradition-bound conference covering much of the same geographic footprint, and a family of television stations in search of inexpensive programming to fill the other six days of the week.

In other words, a decision made with complete and utter disregard for the experience of people who actually go to games. You know, like the football team, the cheerleaders, the bands...and the fans.

Mid-week MAction means rushing from work to the game, abbreviated tailgating, colder weather in an already-cold time of year (in general, it's warmer during the day than at night, and mid-week games in November all start after dark), and exhaustion the next morning. Unless you don't go, in which it means something fun to watch on TV (or online) during the week, something to tweet about (#MACtion), all from the warm dry comfort of your home, where, if the game isn't very good, you can always change the channel and find something better.

In this sense, it fits in perfectly with the larger trend of schools making decisions for the benefit of the television audience, at the expense of their in-person audience, something we've been railing about on Eagle Totem this fall. (Credit where credit is due, Ken started us on this rant, when he observed the seemingly endless string of TV timeouts for games that weren't being televised.)

To put it bluntly:

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Paul Duncan

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.

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Alex Alvarado

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.

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The Chuck

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.

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So what say you?