Pac-10 weighing scheduling issues
Oregon coach Chip Kelly liked the idea of moving the start of
his team’s game against Stanford up three hours because fans in
Eugene didn’t have to wait all day to see the game, then face a
drive home late at night.
Other than that, Kelly could have cared less; he’ll play
”I have absolutely no say in the scheduling,” he said. ”If
you want to play at 3 a.m., I’ll play at 3 a.m. I don’t care.”
The Pac-10’s new leadership had a different perspective. They
were thrilled with the time change because of the exposure it gave
Had the game gone off at its original time of 8:15 p.m. PDT, it
would have started after some East Coasters were already in bed and
ended well after last call.
By moving kickoff up to 5:15 p.m., No. 9 Stanford at No. 4
Oregon became a prime-time showcase – one not involving those
Trojans – that served as the capper to a day filled with premier
”A year ago when I started in this role, I was told by a lot of
people that nationally people see USC and don’t see the depth of
the conference after that,” Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott
”To have a year later, Stanford and Oregon be the game that has
the most interest in a week with the Red River Rivalry,
Florida-Alabama and other important games makes a big statement of
where the Pac-10 is at, how it’s seen and the fact that we have two
potential national contenders playing.”
The late-night game has been an issue for the Pac-10 for
The benefit of playing after dark is the lack of competition for
TV viewers; Saturdays are full of clutter and there aren’t as many
options for people to switch off to at night in the West.
The downside is that some viewers on the East Coast might not be
willing to stay up into the wee hours to watch a college football
game. That hurts the TV ratings and the Pac-10’s recognition in the
East, which could be damaging in poll and award voting.
So as the conference heads into a new era, transforming into the
Pac-12 with the addition of Colorado and Utah, its leaders are
looking into ways of getting its marquee games in front of bigger
The Pac-10’s TV deals expire at the end of the current school
year and the starting times for football games are sure to be part
of the conversation.
”There’s a lot of factors that go into making sure we’re
visible nationally for our biggest games, but it’s something that’s
a high priority, something that we’re spending a lot of time on and
something that will receive a very high priority as we’re looking
at our future broadcast agreements,” Scott said.
The Pac-10 has already had its share of big games on the
late-night slate this season.
On Sept 18, a matchup between No. 9 Iowa and No. 24 Arizona, one
of the biggest games in the Wildcats’ recent history, started at
7:30 local time. UCLA’s upset win over No. 23 Houston started at
the same time and the Wake Forest-Stanford game was even later,
kicking off at 8:15.
Arizona, looking to cement its status among the nation’s elite
programs, played another late game against Cal the next week, the
same time as an entertaining shootout between Oregon and Arizona
Stanford-Oregon was on the late-night list, too, until ABC and
ESPN asked if it could be moved up.
For the Pac-10, it was a no-brainer. Its long-standing dilemma
has been fighting eastern perception that the conference is USC and
a bunch of teams nobody cares about.
This game was a rare chance to show that’s no longer the
”The Pac-10 is arguably among the top two conferences in terms
of our stature and the performance of our teams and I want to make
sure voters across the country are seeing the best of the Pac-10,”
Scott said. ”That’s one of the reasons we allowed Stanford and
Oregon to be moved earlier.”
Now it’s time to see if it’s feasible to have more big games
It might be tough at the two Arizona schools, at least for the
first two months of the season. Temperatures reach into the 90s
even for night games in September and October; the temperature at
kickoff at Oregon-Arizona State was a blistering 100.
Other schools have more flexibility and appear willing to shift
things around if it means more recognition for their programs and
”We’re a conference that I think has traditionally been seen as
pretty conservative and rigid when it comes to when we’ll play, but
I think that’s changing,” Scott said. ”Not only is there new
leadership in the conference office, but throughout the conference
and a different mindset is evolving. I think you’ll see a fresh
look at where we play.”