HENDERSON, Nev. • Late-night games will remain a reality for the Mountain West, the conference’s commissioner said on Tuesday.
Meeting with reporters at Mountain West media days in a Las Vegas suburb, Craig Thompson said negotiations for the next television contract could be done in about 30 days and will continue to place the conference games in the late time slot on Saturdays.
Late basketball games will also be part of the package.
“Let me just say this, there will be 8 o’clock tipoffs and kickoffs,” said Thompson, the longtime commissioner of the Colorado Springs-based conference. “I know that’s a concern for everybody – for fans, administrators. If we can possibly get the number 7 in there it would be a real bonus.”
Thompson said negotiations are nearing completion, with the conversations turning to details such as the selection process between the networks that will partner with the conference.
What kickoff time do you prefer for Air Force football home games?
Air Force’s next home game, Oct. 26 against Utah State, has drawn the 8:15 p.m. kickoff start.
The league had floated the idea in recent years of experimenting with digital formats to take back some of the control of its start times, but the money offered by television networks will continue to make it the driving force as the league enters into a new agreement.
Air Force will play an 8:15 p.m. game at home Oct. 26 against Utah State on ESPN2, it was announced Saturday. Falcons fans immediately reacted with disappointment on social media, continuing a longstanding displeasure with the late starts that is hardly unique to the academy’s fan base.
Thompson, along with deputy commissioner Bret Gilliland, said the conference office is trying to find a balance between the most lucrative deal for the conference’s 12 institutions that can also be within a reasonable set of acceptable parameters.
Part of that, they said, is the reality that television networks want to show four sets of college games Saturdays, and the way that plays out opens a time spot beginning around 8 p.m. for the final wave. As a conference that plays in the Mountain, Pacific and Hawaii time zones, the Mountain West remains the logical choice to fill that spot even if it comes as a turnoff for fans who don’t want to attend games that start — and finish — so late.
“All we can say is we hear you on late kicks and tips,” Thompson said. “But here’s the compromise. Here’s what someone would pay us in a rights fee to play in these windows.”
Thompson also said the Mountain West’s success this season against the Power Five conferences, notching nine wins against those programs, hasn’t helped in the television negotiations to the point where it will turn into a noticeable monetary gain.
“It’s better than having a bad year, but they’re not going to pay us the rights fee much higher because we won nine games against that grouping of schools,” Thompson said. “Better than the alternative, but it’s not a major factor.”