Notre Dame released their 2018 schedule last week and one thing that immediately stands out is that we’ll be seeing a lot of the Fighting Irish on ESPNU this season.
The Irish are scheduled to be on national TV five times during the 2018 regular season, as ESPNU will air Notre Dame’s games against Denver (March 10), Virginia (March 18), Syracuse (March 31), Duke (April 7) and North Carolina (April 21). Both the ACC semifinal games (April 27) and the ACC title game (April 29) also will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Notre Dame's the new King of ESPNU. pic.twitter.com/6t86tJn36G— Safe Fekadu (@Eri_Barrister) January 6, 2018
That’s five scheduled ESPNU games with the possibility of two more in the ACC Tournament. Notre Dame does have two away games at Maryland & Ohio State this season as well, so there’s a reasonable chance that the Big Ten Network will decide to air at least one, if not both, of those games when the network releases its tv schedule in the coming weeks. So it’s possible that seven of Notre Dame’s 12 regular season games will be on national tv, with potentially a couple more in the ACC Tournament. That’s pretty impressive.
Additionally, one other thing that I noticed about Notre Dame’s press release, is that the Irish were the only school to have included ESPNU dates/times along with their schedule. Indeed, none of the other ACC teams (Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, & Syracuse) attached any details about being on tv in their releases, not even their games versus Notre Dame. The words “tv” or “ESPN” aren’t even in any of the other four ACC press releases.
All five ACC teams released their schedule roughly within a couple weeks of each other, so its not like Duke released their schedule in October before all the tv decisions were made. Notre Dame’s schedule is essentially a sneak preview of ESPNU’s 2018 lacrosse schedule in everything but name.
Hopkins didn’t include any ESPNU details when the Jays released their 2018 schedule back in October. As I pointed out several months ago in a post about the new JHU Lacrosse Advisory Board, I don’t even know if Hopkins still has their exclusive deal with ESPN to broadcast all of their home games. The contract was last renewed for four years back in 2013, as noted in a JHU Gazette article about Hop’s decision to move to the Big Ten (“They say it is also critical to protect the university’s ties with ESPNU, which broadcasts all Blue Jays home games and recently renewed that relationship for four more years.”). I haven’t found anything about the contract being reupped, and believe me I’ve looked.
I’m sure Hopkins will be on ESPNU at least once this season, additionally, they’re in the Big Ten and will probably be on the Big Ten Network several times this year, so don’t shed any tears for me and Blue Jay Nation. However, I do have a feeling that Hop’s move to the Big Ten affected its relationship with ESPN. The Big Ten Network has rights to Hop’s away conference games, so there are less games available for ESPNU to broadcast now as opposed to when Hop was an independent. Additionally, the network is invested in the ACC and has said it intends to create an ACC Network for cable and satellite tv; the ACC Network is already available digitally via ACC Network Extra.
Given the network’s close relationship with the ACC, it makes sense for it to make Notre Dame its new showcase team, especially if its contract with Hopkins wasn’t renewed after last season. Indeed, Notre Dame has an enormous following, they’re an elite team, and, conveniently enough, they’re an ACC team. Notre Dame even has a similar dynamic as Hopkins in that the Irish are an independent team in football, much in the same vein as Hopkins lacrosse was for nearly a century and a half.
Notre Dame being on ESPNU more is something that Adam has pointed out on Twitter often. Indeed, back in 2013 when the Irish were in the Big East, they were on ESPNU four times, with two of those against Syracuse in the Big City Classic & the Big East Tournament title game. The very next year, Notre Dame’s first year in the ACC, the Irish were on ESPNU seven times in the regular season & ACC Tournament. Last season Notre Dame was on ESPNU six times in the regular season and ACC Tournament, as compared to four times for JHU. Additionally, this’ll be the second year in a row that ESPNU won’t air the Hopkins vs. Syracuse game, as Notre Dame’s game versus Denver is on at roughly the same time and the network gave the nod to the Pioneers & Irish.
Hmm...Hop/Cuse is March 10 at 1pm. Can’t show that and the ND game at 2:30. Second straight year it’s relegated to ESPN3? You’d think they’d learn after yet another OT game— Adam Epstein (@aepstein) January 6, 2018
Maybe Notre Dame being the only team to include tv dates/times along with their schedule was just coincidence and maybe Hopkins will announce a fresh deal with ESPN in the next couple weeks. But for the time being, it appears that Notre Dame sits atop the ESPNU throne.