With his league having been shut out of the College Football Playoff for the last two seasons and three of the last four, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott admitted that the league has talked about maybe starting some games at 9 am Pacific time in order to get more exposure.
The Pac-12 has been relegated to late-night viewing much of the time, after most people in the Eastern half of the country has already had their fill of college football for the day. Games that don’t start until 9 or 10 pm Eastern time aren’t going to make the next day’s newspapers, so any voters on the East might not realize what a Pac-12 power has been doing without some research.
A game that starts at noon ET will finish by about 3 pm ET, and the highlights from the game will be played all day long, giving teams that much more exposure.
So what happens if the Pac-12 goes forward with such game times?
Early Bird Gets The Exposure?
While Scott admitted that the conference has had preliminary discussions about changing game times to much earlier than usual, it would also take a television network willing to show those games ahead of their usual schedule of games in the East and Midwest.
“That would be new and out of the box for our conference, but I’ve tried to put everything on the table,” Scott said to reporters last week. “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) kicks be Pac-12 games and see what markets might respond positively to that.”
The conference wouldn’t force schools to play in the early time slot, which would force some home fans to be up at 6 or 7 in the morning to make it to a stadium in time for kickoff. But word is UCLA and Cal have already shown a desire to be some of the first schools to play the early games.
“I’d kick off at 6 am,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “When you wake up — if you’re a college football player or coach, you want to wake up and you want to play football.
“The hardest thing with Saturdays is when you wake up, and then you’ve got to wait until 7 at night. But we’re also big on we don’t control our schedule and when we kick off. So tell us where it is and when we’re kicking it off, and we’ll be there.”
One other advantage to the earlier game times would be that visiting teams would get back home at a decent hour as opposed to some games that don’t get the traveling team home until 3 am.
One big problem would be for schools like Washington State, Oregon, and Oregon State, who don’t have a big city population close by so fans have to drive farther to make it to the stadium. The early start times would make it more difficult for them as opposed to UCLA with the entire Los Angeles area to draw from, or Cal and Stanford with the Bay area.
Those schools also don’t have a lot of hotel room for fans that want to come the night before for an early kickoff time.
Still, with the conference seemingly falling far behind some of the other Power 5 conferences nationally, the league is open to trying new things in order to raise the Pac-12 image.