LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- The long-awaited launch of the ACC Network happens at 7 Thursday night, but good luck finding it.
Because if you live in the Louisville/Southern Indiana area, there is a good chance you won't be able to watch the network. Which means you will miss the debut Sunday of its all-access show featuring the Louisville football team on the eve of its season opener against Notre Dame.
UofL built an ACCN studio on its campus, as did all the other ACC schools.
At the 11th hour, the network signed a contract with Spectrum (Channels 524 & 937), a major cable provider in Kentuckiana, and Direct TV (612). But there is no deal yet with AT&T U-verse, Dish Network or Comcast, leaving thousands of local viewers out in the cold. Negotiations with those outlets are ongoing.
“We are having productive conversations with distributors outside of the ones that have already been announced,” Rosalyn Durant, an ESPN senior vice president for college networks, said during a recent conference call with reporters. “Those conversations continue and will continue through launch and beyond launch.”
The ACC Network, created in partnership with ESPN, becomes a reality at 7 p.m. Thursday with a two-hour edition of its ACC-themed SportsCenter program. The first 10 minutes will air across seen different ESPN channels, but after that only those with ACCN access will be able to watch.
For its first night, the network has lined up an attractive special featuring players and coaches from around the ACC, including Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, former Flordia State QB Charlie Ward and Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw, among others.
The highlight, though, will be a documentary, "The Class That Saved Coach K, followed by a panel discussion featuring players from Duke's 1982 recruiting class that led the Blue Devils to the 1986 NCAA championship game, where they lost to UofL 72-69 in Dallas. One member of that Duke team was Jay Bilas, who is now a well-respected ESPN college basketball analyst.
In its first season, the ACCN expects to air 450 live contests, including 40 regular-season football games, 150 men’s and women’s basketball games, and 200 other regular-season competitions and tournament games from across the ACC’s 27 sponsored sports.
McMAHON AMONG CARD CAPTAINS
At the end of their high school careers, there was nothing to indicate that either guard Ryan McMahon or forward Dwayne Sutton would eventually assume a leadership role for UofL's basketball team.
Yet here they are, after coach Chris Mack announced that McMahon, Sutton and Malik Williams will be the Cardinals' three captains for the 2019-20 season, selected in a vote of their teammates.
McMahon was lightly recruited out of high school in Sarasota, Fla., but -- you know the story by now -- wound up at UofL after ESPN's Dick Vitale recommended him to Rick Pitino. McMahon is a 5th-year senior.
Sutton, also a 5th-year senior, starred at duPont Manual High School in Louisville and turned down an offer from Bellarmine to attend UNC-Asheville, where he played one season before transferring to UofL.
“Dwayne, Malik and Ryan have earned the vote of their teammates to be elected captains,” Mack said in a news release. “It’s clear that their efforts and actions in the offseason have gained the respect of their teammates. Leadership on any team is highly important and it’s especially key with so many new faces on our roster this season. I think each of them understands what it means to be a captain and are honored that their peers have chosen them.”
McMahon, a 6-0 sharpshooter who earned his bachelor's degree in marketing in the spring, hit a 3-pointer in 24 of 34 games last season. He scored a career-high 24 points in Louisville's upset of Top-10 Michigan State last season. He led the Cardinals in free throw percentage (.950, 57-of-60) and was third on the team with 60 assists.
Sutton (6-5), who also graduated in the spring with a bachelor's degree in sports administration, started all 34 games last season while averaging 10.0 points (third on the team) and 6.9 rebounds (second on the team). He was noted as one of the nation's top ten "Glue Guys" last season by College Insider Jon Rothstein.
Williams, a 6-11 junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., started the last 20 games of the season while producing four double-doubles. He averaged 7.7 points and 6.1 rebounds and came on strong near the end of the season, averaging 9.8 points and 8.4 boards over the last five games.
SOLAK, SMITH THRIVING IN MAJORS
Former U of L baseball players are making quite an impact on their respective major league baseball teams this summer.
First, catcher Will Smith joined the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 28 and began punishing National League pitchers.
The latest U of L product to reach the majors, former teammate Nick Solak, showed this week that he too might be able to make his mark. Tuesday night in the second game of a doubleheader on his first day in the big leagues, the Texas Rangers second baseman hit a home run, then reached base on a fielding error that allowed Delino DeShields to score for a walkoff 3-2 win over the LA Angels. Solak had gotten his first career hit in the first game, a line-drive single, after being called up from AAA Nashville the night before.
Smith is a contender for NL Rookie of the Year honors. He is batting .318, with 12 home runs, 31 RBI, an on base percentage of .492 and a slugging percentage of .818. In the last seven games Smith is hitting .375 with six homers.
Smith and Solak both played on U of L's 2016 team that posted a 50-14 record, earned a No. 2 national seed and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional before being upset by UC Santa Barbara, 4-2 and 4-3, the latter on a walkoff grand slam.
Four players from that team were selected in the MLB draft. The highest pick was outfielder Corey Ray, taken No. 5 by Milwaukee. He has played most of this year at Class AAA San Antonio, but is hitting only .184 and has struck out 75 times in 163 at-bats.
Closer Zack Burdi, who gave up UCSB's walkoff homer, was taken 26th by the White Sox. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, his 2019 season ended with a tendon injury.
Smith went No. 32 in the draft, while Solak was the fourth player drafted from that '16 team, taken by the New York Yankees in the second round at No. 62 overall. Solak was sent to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018, then traded to the Rangers on July 13.
In all, seven ex-Cards are currently on major league rosters. One of those, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Josh Rogers from New Albany, Ind., is rehabbing in Sarasota after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery on July 3. He more than likely is out for all of next season.
Besides the seven major leaguers, 32 other former Cards are playing professionally, including eight at the Class AAA level.