Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott recently mentioned the possibility of 9 a.m. kickoffs for the 2019 season, but how would this impact the Washington Huskies?
Commissioner Larry Scott announced several changes during his recent appearance at the Pac-12 football media day. However, it was one potential change in particular which gave the Washington Huskies faithful and other fans in the conference something to think about.
More specifically, Scott confirmed the conference has had preliminary talks with ESPN and Fox about kicking off a few football games this season at 9 a.m. Pacific time. (Fox are placing a premium game in this slot for the first time in the coming season.) As reported by Sports Illustrated, Scott said:
” That would be new and out of the box for our conference but I’ve tried to put everything on the table. There’s a lot of frustration from fans in certain markets to the late night kicks. I’d like to see one or two games this season that are 12 noon (ET) kickoffs be Pac-12 games and see what markets might respond positively to that.”
One of the main reasons for doing this, is due to the low exposure the Pac-12 receives around the rest of the country. The rationale is that a lot of college football fans have turned off their televisions by the time West Coast games kick off in the evening.
In theory, it sounds like a good idea. However — as is often the case — will sports fans who actually attend the games be the ones to suffer? Given that the majority of those who turn up are college students themselves, is it realistic to expect them to be up in time for a game which starts at 9 a.m?
If we’re honest, a lot of college students are not exactly renowned for (voluntarily) being early risers. Throw in a late drinking session on a Friday night — hey, it’s the start of the weekend — and you imagine the hangovers will still be fresh in the morning.
On a related note, what about the institution of tailgating? Feasibly, this would also be impacted by early kickoffs.
Washington State Cougars’ head coach Mike Leach doesn’t seem to be a fan of the idea. At least that’s the inference based on one of his tweets following Scott’s announcement:
Of course, our main interest is how any such move would impact the Huskies specifically. As things stand, kickoff times have yet to be confirmed for three of their seven home games for this coming season.
The games in questions are against USC (Sep. 28), Oregon (Oct. 19) and Utah (Nov. 2). So, this could mean three possibilities for a Huskies’ home game to start at 9 a.m.
(At this point, it is important to point out a caveat. Scott did say that it would be up to the Pac-12 teams themselves to volunteer to take part in an early start.)
The question is, do the Huskies need the extra exposure? There is plenty of evidence to suggest they are doing just fine as they are.
For a start, consider the first pre-season ranking polls for college football. As per Sports Illustrated, Washington have been ranked at number 12. (In respect of the Pac-12, Oregon were ranked ninth, Utah were 14th and Stanford were 25th.)
When you think about all of the starters who have left Washington, this speaks volumes about how highly head coach Chris Peterson and the talent on his team is rated. Last year marked the first time in school history the Huskies had a run of three straight seasons of double-digit wins.
Continuing with the exposure angle, Washington is one of only two teams from the Pac-12 to be voted into the final four since the college football playoffs started in 2014. (The other team was Oregon, who were selected for the inaugural playoffs.)
One final aspect to consider, takes us back to the issue of how the fans would potentially be impacted. Of the official Pac-12 attendances for last season, the Washington Huskies came first with an average of 69,068 people per game. (USC were second at 55,449.)
No doubt some people will point to these figures being for actual tickets sold, given away, etc, rather than who actually turned up. Regardless, even allowing for this factor, the Dawgs do just fine with filling Husky Stadium for games.
With all this factored in, the main reason Washington would consider 9 a.m. kickoffs, is to increase their exposure to potential recruits who live in other parts of the country. At the risk of romanticizing the situation, you can imagine young players being intrigued by the spectacular/scenic setting and the passionate fanbase, while watching games on their TV.
The only concern is how many of those same passionate fans would be in the stadium for a game kicking off so early in the morning? Certainly, this is something the Huskies would have to weigh up.
Overall, you can appreciate — to a certain extent — why early kickoffs could be considered for the Pac-12 in general. For the Huskies specifically though, there is no such sense of need.
As is often said, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If and when Washington decide to get involved, it will purely be an experiment in curiosity to see what happens.
What’s you take on the potential for 9 a.m. kickoffs in respect of the Washington Huskies specifically? Are you for or against the idea, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.