Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Not-so-prime time

Every once in awhile I dream that the world is different than it actually is. Call it a character flaw.

I dream of a world, specifically, where the television tail does not wag the college football dog. Where Chris Schenkel's fabled Saturday Afternoons In The Fall are actually Saturday afternoons in the fall. Where games in the Midwest don't start at 8 p.m. and run perilously close to midnight.

I know. I'm old. I'm out of touch. I am the metaphoric bony fist shaking itself at uncaring reality.

But you know what?

Apparently I'm not alone.

In East Lansing on Saturday, Michigan State played Nebraska in a great big important football game, or at least as great big as the diminished Big Ten provides these days. Kickoff was at 8 p.m. on a cold, wet night with temperatures hovering in the 40s.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, it was close to 11 p.m. and Michigan State led 27-3. And so the students, quite understandably, bailed, it being hit-the-bars-and-celebrate time. And that didn't sit well with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis and football coach Mark Dantonio.

Here's what I have to say about that: It's your own fault, gentlemen.

You want college kids to stick around for the fourth quarter, play your games at a decent hour. Don't expect the students to hang around -- especially in a game you're winning big -- if you're not kicking off until 8 p.m. and you're still playing at 11. That's simply not realistic.

Of course, neither is dictating to the teevees, instead of the other way around. It's a pleasant fantasy to imagine Hollis, or any other AD, saying, "You know what? We're playing our football game at 1 p.m. Saturday. If you want to televise it, that's when you need to show up."

I guarantee you if Notre Dame or Alabama or, yes, Michigan State said that, the teevees would show up. They might not make as much coin off a 1 p.m. start as off a prime-time start, but money's still money.

Unfortunately, those days are done. TV dictates to the schools now, not the other way around. And the schools, who like to make money, too, go along with it.

In which case, you have to take the bad with the good. And the bad is that, on a soaking 40-degree night, the students aren't gonna stick around if you're cutting into their drinking time.

That's the deal, and it's one the schools have willingly made themselves. So they need to quit bitching about it.  

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