Amid all the conference realignment chaos, some minor TV network news arose in college football. UConn announced WFSB, Hartford's CBS affiliate, will televise their November 18th home game against fellow Nutmeg State school, Sacred Heart.
It is common for Power Five teams to monopolize air time on over-the-air networks, so it is refreshing to see two unique schools receive time on such a network, even if it is just on a local scale. As the title implies, Sacred Heart benefits the most from this.
Alongside the Pioneer Football League, which does not have a media deal, the Northeast Conference is arguably the most overshadowed in the FCS. Most of the NEC's games are accessible through NECFrontRow, but ESPN3 broadcasts the league's best games. ESPN3 is an even worse destination for exposure than ESPN+ as ESPN3 requires authentification from a viewers' cable/over-the-top subscriber rather than a simple subscription like ESPN+.
Consequently, opportunities like this year's Sacred Heart-UConn game serve as regional showcases for the conference. WFBS covers the Hartford-New Haven market, the 34th-largest TV market in the country, serving 1,014,160 households.
While it is naive to assume every household in the Hartford-New Haven market will watch the game, viewership from a tenth of the market still gives the game over 100,000 viewers. This figure is likely in the top echelon of viewership that any Northeast Conference game has ever had. The game also serves as a lead-in for CBS' SEC coverage at 3:30 ET, further increasing potential viewership.
Playing against FBS programs with large followings on network TV is an incredible recruiting boost for the Northeast Conference over the Patriot League and northeast schools in the Pioneer League and Big South.
The league can also show the Northeast its might with a strong performance. Last season, Central Connecticut State appeared on Hartford-New Haven's CW20 when they visited UConn. The Devils held a 3-0 lead until late in the second quarter and only trailed 14-3 entering the fourth quarter before losing 28-3 to the Huskies.
The Blue Devils’ competitive performance against UConn on local network TV likely did much to improve the Northeast Conference’s profile in the Northeast. Sacred Heart has the chance to do the same. Being an in-state matchup and furthermore, a rare game against a Northeastern school for UConn, this matchup carries much intrigue and can potentially attract casual viewers. A competitive performance by Sacred Heart builds upon CCSU’s solid performance last year to increase the NEC’s notoriety.
Despite not being a nationally relevant game, an appearance on local TV against Connecticut’s flagship school is an opportunity the Northeast Conference has rarely seen throughout its existence.