The upcoming spring sports season has given historically Black college football a rare opportunity where it does not have to share the stage with major college football or the NFL.
That might mean, according to SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland, more nationally televised games on the worldwide leader.
McClelland on Wednesday said he has pushed ESPN executives to showcase more than usual conference matchups in 2021 across the network’s platforms.
“We were very proactive in telling ESPN that we wanted our games on,” McClelland told the press during the first day of SWAC Media Days. “As a matter of fact, I would say almost a demand to ESPN that we want our games on and quite frankly ESPN responded and said yes, that they want those games.”
The discussions included the possibility that some games could be televised on the main network outside of the entrenched Thursday and Saturday slates that featured SWAC contests on ESPNU or web platforms.
“The Thursday night games don’t really work for Southwestern Athletic Conference member institutions,” he said. “We want to put our best games on television and, quite frankly, those best games are on Saturdays. Nobody’s gonna move one of their 40, 50, or 60 (thousand) attended games on a Thursday night.”
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While the official full season television schedule has yet to be released, McCelland anticipated that ESPN would feature the league more prominently this spring.
“We understand our value and we understand our worth,” he said. “We’re going to start to demand that our value and our worth be respected and entities understand that.”
McClelland explained that the league is now strong enough — with the additions of Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman along with its traditional powers — that the conference “should be able to have high-profile games in primetime.”
“So we’re going to continue to put the full-court press,” he said. “And I quite frankly believe that ESPN will continue to hear our concerns.”
In 2019, 13 games were featured across ESPN’s family of networks.
“I think we are a big enough conference with enough name-brands now to start setting some of our own terms. We don’t have to necessarily acquiesce to some of the terms that have been laid out for us in previous times.”
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