April 15, 2013
College football should be played in the sunshine on Saturdays. This is my belief, and this is the belief of Air Force football fans, who stay home when games stray from Saturday afternoons.
“It isn’t just them,” Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said of this righteous belief. “It’s me, too.”
Mueh realizes his opposition to weeknight games might come as a surprise. His football team will play two Thursday and two Friday games in 2013.
This scheduling is, on many levels, just plain wrong. Playing games on Thursdays hurts the product as we watch weary, unprepared players slog up and down the field. Four days is never enough to prepare for the rigors of a football game.
Let me allow former Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, to say what’s wrong about playing college football on Fridays.
"Friday nights belong to high school football,” he said Monday from his home in South Carolina. “I think Friday night high school football is sacred, and it always will be for me. I hated to play on Friday night.”
But the always hungry ESPN requires games. The Worldwide Leader in destroying sports traditions demanded flexibility from Mountain West leaders. And you don’t say no to ESPN.
“Somewhere along the line we got to the point where TV was driving the train,” Mueh said.
Jumping on this train is especially costly for Air Force. In many college destinations, games will sell out regardless of the time frame. When the Falcons travel to Boise for a Friday night game Sept. 13, they can expect to play on a gruesome blue carpet while being booed by a packed house.
And when the Falcons play host to UNLV on Thursday, Nov. 21?
Allow me this wild prediction. The temperatures will plummet into the teens, and 22,000 fans, their teeth chattering, will scatter throughout Falcon Stadium.
“I wish we could get everybody back on that Saturday schedule,” DeBerry said, “but unfortunately the all-mighty dollar is speaking loudly and clearly. Television owns college football. That’s the only way you can look at.”
I realize ESPN is not robbing Air Force and its MW comrades. Big piles of cash are being handed to athletic directors, including Mueh, for the right to pollute schedules with weeknight games.
“The game belongs to the spectators,” DeBerry said, his voice booming.
Agree completely, coach, even while realizing Fisher and I are only wishing his words remained true.