Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

After two straight years of Boston College-Virginia Tech showdowns in Florida venues, a certain theme has enveloped the ACC Championship game ...

Er, yes. Fans disguised as unusually colorful yet still empty seats. The 2006 Georgia Tech-Wake Forest showdown in Jacksonville didn't do much for the cameras either, drawing maybe half of the announced 62,000 for the Deacons' rain-soaked, 9-6 win. Last year's Hokies-Eagles rematch only drew a little over 27,000, barely half the number of tickets sold and distributed, and drew a dismal 2.9 in the Nielsens, down from 4.1 for the 2007 game. (For some context on that number, last year's SEC Championship drew a 10.4.)

The ideal solution, especially while the game remains on its Southern swing before moving to Charlotte in 2010, is the Miami-Florida State championship showdown the conference anticipated when it adopted the two-division format in 2005 and booked the first five title games for Jacksonville and Tampa, respectively. Short of fiendishly engineering a 'Canes-'Noles finale, though, maybe they can do something about that 1 p.m. kickoff:

The ACC football championship game, which will be played at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium for a second straight year, returns to prime time with an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN on Dec. 5.
Aside from a perception that a prime-time game is of greater importance, local organizers hope a start that’s seven hours later would give out-of-town fans a chance to take advantage of all that Tampa Bay offers, such as golf or the beach, and might boost attendance.

More time to take in the sights and make a day of it sounds like a slightly improved deal for travelers to the game, and the inaugural championship game, a primetime affair in Jacksonville in 2005, was easily the most successful to date in terms of both attendance and TV ratings (although Florida State's participation might have had at least a little something to do with the former). For TV viewers, though, the move is not as nice: Rather than owning the midday appetizer slot, the ACC is now going head-to-head with the Big 12 Championship game on ABC. Of course, if the South champion beats the North champ by 41 points again in Dallas, it might just work out.

If nothing else, maybe the darkness will obscure some of the empty seats this time.

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Hat tip: CFT.

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