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MAC Rivalries Will Move to Two-Year Rotation System
Good news: Every two years, MACtion rivalries will switch from Saturday games to midweek games.
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Tony Paul of The Detroit News shared some important information real MACtion heads want to hear. The MAC and ESPN have decided to find some balance with their rivalry games being on weeknight television. Too much MACtion has led to a terrible conundrum that nobody wants to deal with (or broadcast): these schools’ fans can hardly ever make it out to their favorite team’s big rivalry game.
Detroit — The Western Michigan-Central Michigan football rivalry will return to a Saturday within the next few years.
The Mid-American Conference and TV partner ESPN have reached an agreement to rotate the midweek games that long have been a source of frustration for fans and students of WMU and CMU, which this season will play a midweek game for the fourth consecutive season.
MAC commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher told The News on Thursday, at MAC media day at the Fox Theatre, that the rotation system will feature a template of two years on, and two years off, for the midweek games on ESPN. It will be a staggered system, with one rivalry game moving out of the two-year rotation each year, with another moving in. (The Detroit News)
College football is played on Saturdays. There’s always enough money in the banana stand to play some games on weekdays, but college football, as we all know it, is played on Saturdays.
College football is entertainment. After a long week of going to class or going to work, college football fans want to either go to their favorite team’s game live, or watch their favorite team from home in their good sweatpants. Whether fans watch from Gameday to Pac 12 After Dark or they’re more casual about it, there’s always going to be that one game that actually counts. No matter how amazing the primetime action is, there’s one box score fans spend ten minutes reading every week. There’s one team account fans are responding to on Twitter or sharing their feelings with on Instagram with their old friends from college.
College football on Tuesday is pretty unnatural, but we do it anyways.
Well, the teams and players all do it. For fans, it’s hit-or-miss on whether they’ll be able to do their part in the stands and in the tailgate scene.
"They're valuable games, so you've got to try to balance all of that," Steinbrecher told The News. "I think it's taken a lot of conversations, but ESPN has been responsive to the concerns we've raised on that.
"It's going to take us a couple years winding into it (the new template)."
With seemingly no end in sight to ESPN plucking WMU-CMU for midweek action, there have been rumblings in recent months about the two schools adding a second meeting each season, to be played on a weekend (perhaps the season-opening week), and to be declared a nonconference game. Those talks never reached a serious stage, however.
What rivalries do the MAC and ESPN both recognize as games that ESPN really, really wants on its weeknight slots? I think there are four obvious rivalry games that get circle-highlighted every year no matter what:
Battle for the Victory Cannon: Central Michigan - Western Michigan
Battle of I-75: Bowling Green vs. Toledo
Wagon Wheel: Akron - Kent State
Battle of the Bricks: Miami - Ohio
There’s always room for the Bronze Stalk (Ball State - Northern Illinois), the Michigan MAC (Central - Eastern - Western Michigans), and the Anniversary Award (BGSU - Kent State), and even the newly-created Mallory Cup (Miami - Northern Illinois), but those don’t carry as much weight as the other four mentioned above.
When ESPN doesn’t have the big rivalry game to show off, it’ll need a big divisional matchup. It doesn’t matter if it’s NIU - Toledo, EMU - Toledo, Miami - Kent State, or Ohio - Akron, there simply has to be good football on TV if the best rivalry games aren’t what the November MACtion birds get to watch.
Is this good news for the conference in terms of conference realignment?
Whether you’re annoyed by the subject or not, it’s still something that this league needs to use as a tool when it has conversations with Middle Tennessee again. “Hey guys, what if only half of your rivalry games with Western Kentucky were on weeknights? We just built this new rule that lets you guys come in and have it played for two years on Tuesday/Wednesday nights, then the next two years you’re guaranteed to have it played on Saturday?”
To me, that sounds like a better deal than what it settled for in Conference USA.
Right now, the MAC needs more quality football games, and it’s pretty impossible to expect all current 12 MAC teams to have good football year in and year out. The only reason the MAC isn’t at 14 teams right now is because MTSU wouldn’t budge out of its current situation in C-USA, even though WKU was on board. The MAC doesn’t add a rivalry game if it doesn’t add both MTSU and WKU, which is why the Hilltoppers weren’t added individually.
If there’s ever a chance in the very near future for MTSU to reconsider, I hope they do. I didn’t at first, but I want the 100 Miles of Hate to be a MACtion property. I would like it if the MAC had more surprise divisional battles, and I would totally sit through fake rivalries built between Middle Tennessee and Buffalo because they both wear blue. I would even like the expanded recruiting footprint for the conference down into parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.
But most of all, I would like the same thing everybody else wants. I really just want to have my cake and eat it too. I want my college football (which is MACtion) to be played on a Saturday, but I also want to hang out at home on Tuesday night with more college football on TV (which ends up being more MACtion).