An interesting trend is starting to develop each Saturday during the college football season. The schedule has been stacked with quality late games, while the slate of matchups early in the day is rather ordinary. And this isn't going unnoticed, as college football fans are beginning to complain a little louder each week.
Are Late Kickoffs Ruining College Football?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
A college football Saturday should overload us. But the experience is at its best with a slow and consistent overload from noon Eastern to midnight or later. The Saturday viewing experience should be more like a Crock Pot than a microwave. That’s not what we got last week. Every nationally important game was crammed into the time slot from 7 p.m. Eastern and 10:30 p.m.: Florida State-Clemson, LSU-Auburn, Kansas State-Oklahoma, and Cal-USC, not to mention the upset watch games of Rutgers-Arkansas and Akron-Tennessee. We’re not at a breaking point yet -- I believe last week’s late night-heavy schedule was the extreme -- but more weeks like that will damage the sport. Watching college football is at its best when it almost mirrors the first day of the NCAA Tournament. A day that has top games all day from beginning to end, but with enough space to allow a Louisiana-Monroe or other upset bid to take center stage for a few minutes. The networks, especially now that Fox is in the mix, all want a piece of the late-night pie. But if we have more weekends like we did last week, it’s going to hurt the sport as a whole. If all the games kickoff after 7 p.m., why should fans without a rooting interest bother to watch noon and 3:30 kickoffs? At least the SEC generally keeps its top game in the afternoon -- something for the other leagues to consider.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
It is unfortunate that the three biggest games of Week 4 all took place at the same time last weekend. Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Florida State likely stretched the viewing audience rather thin, but that feels more coincidental and unlucky than worrisome long-term trend. Otherwise, call me crazy, but I love having one or two late night Pac-12 showdowns to check out on Saturday night. And in the case of this past weekend, we were, again, more unlucky than anything as Arizona State hammered Utah while Oregon shutout Arizona. My biggest issue with scheduling? November 3 when Alabama-LSU and Oregon-USC will take place at exactly the same time. Boo on you greedy TV executives.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
The late kickoffs have been my biggest complaint about the college football season. It’s ridiculous there are so few games on during the early slots and 20-30 games on at night. Trying to watch Notre Dame-Michigan, Florida State-Clemson, Georgia-Vanderbilt, LSU-Auburn and Kansas State-Oklahoma at one time is simply impossible. I don’t understand the logic behind the scheduling of so many night games, but I hope it changes next year. With every conference having a big television contract, having top-notch primetime games are great exposure. However, I think conferences/teams/television networks are scheduling too many games at night and turning the college football Saturday’s into a four-hour block in the evening.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
I wouldn’t say the abundance of late games is ruining college football, but it sure makes it difficult to watch all of the best games on any given Saturday. I don’t care how many TVs you have set up in your living room or Man Cave, it’s difficult to really pay close attention to more than two games at a time. This past Saturday night, there were simply too many good games on at the same time. It would have been much better had a couple of them — maybe Rutgers at Arkansas and Kansas State at Oklahoma — been played during the 3:30 EST window. I really hope this is something that is addressed next year.
The late kickoffs are certainly ruining the amount of sleep I get on Saturday nights, but I don't think they are ruining college football. Let's face it college football has followed the path that the four major sports have in that the schedule is littered with prime-time match ups. Even more so than any of the professional sports, however, the west coast is full of teams whose home games, when played at night, are really only "late" if you live in the Eastern or Central time zones. That said, although I haven't checked the ratings, my guess is NBC's primetime game between Michigan and Notre Dame this past Saturday, which was played in South Bend, Ind., did fairly well, and it didn't kickoff until 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT. In the end, the key factor here is the product itself. Just as it is with sporting events like the MLB playoffs, Monday Night Football, the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup, as long as it's something worth watching, people will tune in, no matter how late it gets started.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
Primetime kickoffs are quite fun for many fans, but the television networks and conferences do need to make an effort to spread quality games throughout the day. I believe last week’s “overloaded with great matchups” night schedule was a little bit of an aberration and not a huge problem. Thankfully for college football, it’s good to have a product where there are “too many good options.” The powerful SEC usually has its best game in the 3:30pm EST slot, and big-brand schools like Notre Dame and Michigan have not traditionally played many night games like they did the last two seasons. As conference TV contracts get larger, there may be a desire to press too many games up against each other on the primetime schedule. However over time, it would be good to see the networks stagger start times a little more so that the best games are not directly competing.
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