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How could the ACC Network have handled this offseason better?

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A disappointing showing for the league after largely regrettable football and men’s basketball seasons

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On this week’s podcast, we discussed how the ACC Network had botched this offseason. What started as an entertaining enough re-watch of recent contests soon melted into a repetitive parade of the same games around the league.

Team takeover days were actually a solid idea, even if implementation was questionable. But then they were followed up with... nothing, really.

The past month or so has been filled with some quality football games added to YouTube (nice work, actually) and spotlights on random sports. Still, we’ve seen women’s sports and other non-revenue sports barely represented throughout three months of programming needs now. The ACC is arguably the best women’s basketball league in the country each year, yet the replays have been few and far between. And when we do see them, it’s the same game twice in a day, then tossed back into the vault. This goes for men’s and women’s lacrosse, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and numerous other sports, too.

Where are the tens of thousands of hours of game footage the ACC has at its disposal here? The league has been airing ACC games for decades. They’ve been airing Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami and other teams’ games for even longer dating back to their time in the Big East.

If all you wanted to do was just air old games this entire offseason, you could’ve done so without repeating one for the past three months. The ACC Network regularly repeats a game three or four times in a week.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Virginia Tech Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2018, we implored the ACC to think differently about programming, and not just lean on game footage. This unique offseason has made me amend that idea a bit, asking that the ACC finds unique ways to present old games if and when they can. They’ve been doing this on some football re-airs, providing additional and new commentary on old games that provides valuable color and context not available at the time.

Some schools have produced unique content showcasing traditions and notable individuals. The Syracuse Orange are not among them, and that is not a gaffe on the part of the conference as much as it is a missed opportunity for the school. As you know, SU has quite a few traditions and unique individuals in its history who could all lend themselves to an hour-long special. Jim Boeheim would be chief among them, and is fairly easy to get a hold of.

Beyond those high-production selections, there are numerous cheaper options as well that could’ve served the league well during this extended sports hiatus, and could have served as models for how to keep the network entertaining in the months and years after this is all over with.

Studio shows are tough without games. Packer and Durham has proven to be a unique and interesting property at times — with or without games airing — but they spent most of the last three months off the air (the duo returned a couple weeks ago). That’s just one show, though. One opportunity to showcase personalities.

The league started airing a short web series on March’s cancelled ACC Tournament. That’s a good idea. Good enough to put on TV, actually, provided the commentary and decision-making around the cancellation is interesting enough.

Our 2018 recommendations included shining a spotlight on the ACC’s digital personalities and the #goacc of it all... something that hasn’t really happened yet. In a similar vein, bringing together conference media, players and coaches past and present for key conversations could put the league in a leadership position when it comes to social issues.

This month alone, the ACC could’ve hosted candid and important discussions about race following George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests. June is Pride Month, and there are certainly members of the LGBTQ+ community within the conference (past or present) who — provided they wanted to, of course — bring their stories to light. This week was also the 48-year anniversary of Title IX. The league aired some women’s games, but what about a Title IX panel of female conference personalities? What about a whole week of women’s sports content with additional commentary for the major games?

Maybe it’s just me being critical because it’s my nature, to an extent. But it just seems like the ACC Network can be so much more than what it is.

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

When it was announced that the conference would be getting an ESPN-owned network, we entertained ideas of millions of dollars heading our way. That may still happen. But after a lackluster football and men’s basketball season, abrupt suspension of sports and an offseason that saw said network largely turn into ESPN Classic and nothing more, it seems at least a little less likely.

This recent stretch — both on the field and for the network — isn’t going to help the ACC Network get picked up by more carriers. The current state of TV economics won’t either. So that means a potential cap on what exactly this network can be for all of the conference’s members, at least financially.

Perhaps there’s still time to turn it into something more. I’m just not sure we’re in an environment that will reward that at this point. I respect the efforts put forward these past few months by the ACC, and I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy time to run a sports-focused network. Still, that network — like this blog and many others like it — has a responsibility to think differently in order to get through it successfully. And maybe even come out better on the other side.