ESPN has no influence on the ACC’s debate for a possible nine-game conference schedule, according an executive at the network.
“Those are decisions that the conferences make for themselves. The conference and the members make that for themselves,” said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president for programming and acquisitions. “ESPN is fine either way.”
Ben-Hanan took issue with an AJC blog post in which Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said that ESPN would likely want more “inventory” if the network were to create an ACC channel, thus making a nine-game schedule a likelihood. Inventory to satisfy television has often been cited as an impetus for expanding conference schedules.
Said Ben-Hanan, “They’ve got to make that decision for themselves.”
Ben-Hanan said he could not answer what value ESPN would put on a nine-game format vs. an eight-game format.
“That’s not for me to say,” he said. “I can only give you what I know about this stuff.”
In terms of volume, a nine-game schedule would actually reduce the number of games played by ACC teams. However, in many cases, nonconference games would likely be less attractive matchups than an additional conference game. On the other hand, it’s conceivable that, if teams improve schedule strength in response to the coming college football playoff, nonconference games could become more valuable properties.