Luke DeCock

Ex post facto change the cherry on top of ACC’s schedule mess

Updated to include ACC’s late-night reversal of course on where the Duke-UNC games will air.

It was bad enough that even the schools had to wait until mid-September to get their basketball schedules, even worse that fans had to wait through overtime of a Florida State women’s soccer game for the release show to start 32 minutes late on the new ACC Network.

But it took an email to underline just how botched this release was. In the schedules Duke and North Carolina released, and on the ACC’s own website, the door was left open to air both games between the two rivals on the ACC Network, the catch-all flexibility of ESPN/2/U/ACCN. “An ACC channel,” is how UNC listed it.

By 11:12 p.m. when the ACC finally released the official pdf of the composite schedule, both games were now listed as ESPN, which left both schools scrambling late last night to adjust their own schedules. (And even then, the ACC website still listed the first game as ESPN/2/U/ACCN.) The league even decided, at the last minute, against publicizing game times.

So the ACC, which has complete and total control over its own schedule and how it’s released, essentially managed to mess up a one-car parade.

If it wasn’t scheduling its ballyhooed release show after an event that was going to run long anyway and then went into extra time, it was ex post facto changes to its own schedule.

There was of course something newsworthy to the potential for those games being on the ACC Network, a repeat of 25 years ago when the telecast of a game between No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina secured ESPN2’s future in perpetuity at a time when that new network was struggling to find a home on cable systems.

As Disney, the parent company of both ESPN and the ACC Network, continues to negotiate carriage deals with the last few holdouts — primarily Comcast and AT&T U-Verse — the network and the conference have chosen not to swing the biggest hammer they have.

The ACC Network had a good month surrounding its August launch, including last-minute deals with major carriers like Charter nee Spectrum nee Time Warner, Dish Network and Cox. But there are still some major holes in the footprint that need filling, ACC markets that still lack the network.

Comcast and U-Verse combine for more than 20 million subscribers, which amounts to more than a third of the ACC Network’s current subscriber base. Meanwhile, Disney’s deal with AT&T-owned DirecTV expires at the end of September, and ESPN is already running warnings that without a new agreement those satellite subscribers could lose ABC, ESPN ... and the ACC Network.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered four Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.