If you need an indicator that the college football season is in full swing, the cycle of Monday TV broadcast announcements began last week. The TV network designation for the September 23 Empire State reunion between Army and Syracuse may disappoint Black Knights fans. Instead of getting an appearance on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU, the ACC Network selected Army-Syracuse as its noon ET game. The ACC Network will not increase the Black Knights’ exposure, but it is far from the worst network to have a game. However, a spot on The CW — an actual broadcast network — was the most ideal destination for this game.
The CW’s foray into live sports broadcasting is now common knowledge for most. The longtime upstart network turned heads when it acquired the rights to the ACC’s Raycom-produced syndication package. The network broadcasted its first game on September 9 when Pitt hosted Cincinnati. The ratings were not bad as The CW’s primetime broadcast drew 617K viewers, just below NBC’s B1G Saturday Night game. Both games competed with the blueblood matchup of Texas and Alabama on ESPN, so it is reasonable to believe that The CW can draw even more respectable viewership numbers for future games.
With all this in mind, The CW missed a golden opportunity to air Army-Syracuse. After all, it’s not like Army is an awful program undeserving of a slot on The CW. VMI, who went 1-10 in the Southern Conference in 2022, received a spot on The CW, serving as a sacrificial lamb against NC State on September 16. By comparison, the Black Knights just bested an outstanding UTSA team in their own building this past weekend.
Coming home and showing out.— Army Football (@ArmyWP_Football) September 17, 2023
No. 13 had a night in the Alamodome. pic.twitter.com/Mwd7LJyMHa
Army is also more of a national brand than either of the two teams Wake Forest is featuring in their September 23 game. Instead of airing Army-Syracuse, the network opted to air Georgia Tech at Wake Forest. Wake might be one of the ACC’s most consistent programs of late, but Georgia Tech has become a perennial conference cellar-dweller. Both teams have less national-level appeal than Army. For example, in 2021, when they went to the ACC Championship game and finished 11-3, the Demon Deacons had just a single game on network TV before their conference championship.
Like several games in the CW package, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have significant regional appeal. Unless the CW gets to air a Clemson, Florida State, or even Miami game, it is unlikely the network will carry a game with a primarily national audience. But Army-Syracuse was exactly that kind of opportunity. Army graduates live literally everywhere, and more to the point, most casual college football fans at least know someone who served in the Military. This makes the Black Knights an easy team to root for and watch.
On top of all this, The CW missed an opportunity to air a game relevant to the New York City TV market. Army is an hour away from Manhattan; the ‘Cuse has over 53,000 alumni in the New York City metro and resides in a top-100 TV market itself. Airing a game featuring two large market teams in Pitt and Cincy paid off. With two weeks of momentum, The CW’s viewership numbers could have continued to increase via the New York City-relevant game. They missed the opportunity for a potential breakthrough in the public consciousness.
This is not the first time, nor the last time over-the-air networks will snub Army. We saw the Black Knights play an all-time classic barnburner at Oklahoma a few years ago on pay-per-view. Still, the decision by an upstart to choose a regionally relevant game involving conference also-rans over a game pertinent to the country’s largest media market and involving a national brand is befuddling.
Go Army! Beat Syracuse!!!
Cover image via Flickr: West Point – The U.S. Military Academy