It may yet be a soothing, pleasant notion for BYU fans, but the idea of enjoying a quality college football game in the warm sunshine of a Saturday afternoon in the fall at LaVell Edwards Stadium is going the way of the Dodo bird and the Tasmanian tiger.
It’s mostly a memory.
When BYU, along with ESPN, announced the first half of the Cougars’ football schedule for 2012, it revealed that the only game to be played at 1 p.m. on a Saturday is the one on Sept. 8 against Weber State, a game that will be televised on BYUtv.
The home opener against Washington State (Aug. 30) will be on a Thursday at 8:15 p.m. Hawaii plays LaVell’s Place on Sept. 28, a Friday, at 6 p.m. The Utah State game is the following Friday at 8:15 p.m. Mixed in are road games at Utah (Saturday, Sept. 15 — time to be determined) and Boise State (Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.). All but the Utah game will be on ESPN.
It’s terrific for BYU that it gets money and exposure via the Worldwide Leader’s cameras beaming games around the planet. But there’s a negative flipside to those benefits — and it’s the local fans, paying customers who should be seen as more than a television backdrop on the LES soundstage, who face it.
They are the ones who get forgotten and then screwed in the deal.
Saturday afternoon games are more than quaint and nostalgic, they offer fans a convenient opportunity to enjoy the football experience to its fullest. Those late starts, especially on weeknights, change the whole dynamic. They are difficult for fans traveling both short and long distances to attend games. BYU fans come from all around the state, and beyond, to see those games.
If kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 at night, it’s more likely to happen at 8:30. That means the game might not end until midnight, which means fans who, say, live in Salt Lake City wouldn’t get home until 2 a.m. or later. If said fans have to work that next day … well, it doesn’t take an Einstein to see the problem.
Even worse, what do parents who come to games with their kids do with that schedule? Does BYU want to discourage youngsters from attending games, youngsters who potentially become fans — and season-ticket buyers — for life by way of watching those games live and in person?
Bronco Mendenhall has often expressed his preference for Saturday afternoon games, maybe on account of all of the above, maybe because he’s a traditionalist, maybe for some other reason.
When it comes to the power of television, though, when ESPN, your partner and prison guard, says your football program will be on late-night TV on a Thursday, that your fans and boosters will have to deal with it, you simply bob your head and accept the terms.
The second half of the schedule is filled out with a load of Saturday games with the letters TBD next to them. Most of those games are on the road, including one at Georgia Tech. We’ll wait to see what that means. If anyone had to guess, he could figure the better games will get moved or shoved under the lights. On the other hand, the Cougars’ final three games are against Idaho at home and San Jose State and New Mexico State on the road.
There also is the Notre Dame game at South Bend on Oct. 20, which, wonder of wonders, will be on NBC at 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time. At last, a good Saturday game that will be played under a blue-gray October sky, instead of a pitch-black one.
GORDON MONSON hosts the “Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.