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

anytime.

”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

the conference.

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

games.

”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

said.

”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

years.

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

audiences.

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

State.

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

case.

”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

played earlier.

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

the conference.

”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.”