There has certainly been some hullabaloo from Pac-12 fans about kickoffs happening at.. unusual times. It seems like the fan reaction to these extreme game times have trickled up to the ivory towers of the Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco as Commissioner Larry Scott took some time at the Pac-12 Championship game to discuss fanbase sentiment.
For past several years, the Pac-12 has enjoyed very late kickoffs; this year, Cal had five games that kicked off at or after 7 p.m. Pacific time. The motivation of these late games was presumably to capture audiences without having to compete with other games in an attempt to bring more eyes to our West Coast football. But that also means our eyelids are drooping to stay awake for the games—especially for our fans on the East Coast. Furthermore, late games are tough for fans with young children or those who have to travel long distances to attend in-person. Apparently, Scott is well aware of the “angst” that Pac-12 fans are experiencing with these #Pac12AfterDark kickoffs.
Larry Scott speaking to the media at the Pac-12 Championship: "I think we've learned - I don't think we anticipated - the level of angst we'd hear from fans [on night-time kickoffs]." pic.twitter.com/UK3xT72Ajw— Sam Weismann (@SamWeisSports) December 6, 2019
So, what do you do if late kickoffs aren’t working well? Let’s flip that script and kickoff as early as humanly possible—the Pac-12 toyed around with the idea of kicking off at 9 a.m. PT in the future. Fans began to rage at the thought of tailgating with mimosas, so Scott characterized this uproar as mildly as possible.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said of 9 a.m. football kickoffs next season, "There is not a groundswell of support for it.”— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) December 7, 2019
For what it’s worth, Justin Wilcox, Jake Curhan, and Luc Bequette don’t hate the idea as much as the fans or even other teams when I had the opportunity to interview them at the Bay Area College Football Kickoff event prior to the start of the season.
Wilcox immediately asked how [9 a.m. kickoffs] would “affect the gameday experience for the fans”, calling that “the only real factor”. He pondered that there might exist a subset of fans who see that as being no different than 8 p.m. kickoffs—fans who must travel long distances probably stay the night after those games, so perhaps they’re okay with staying the night before instead. As for the players, coaches, and the team? “Line it up. Let’s go.” During the offseason, the team practices at 10 a.m. anyway, so this “isn’t that big of a deal” (although it would be “impossible” to switch to morning practices to prepare for an early kick-off in the hypothetical event it should happen). Plus, he chuckled that he hates the anticipation that comes in waiting for a game and this would help them just get it out of the way. Wilcox further stressed how much this is a non-issue for the team by reminding us of our visit to the North Carolina Tar Heels, which had a noon kick-off Eastern time—so it felt like 9 a.m. for the team, but they still came out without feeling flat. Wilcox also conceded that there’s some merit to the proposal until more options for appealing kick-off times are available. The bottom line from Wilcox is that a 9 a.m. kick-off is perfectly “manageable” for the team, but he brought back the importance of fans enjoying the games and the gameday experience.
It’s not a great idea... but I’ll play devil’s advocate and acknowledge the intent behind it—to bring more eyes to Pac-12 football. Anecdotally, the vast majority of fans are vehemntly opposed to the proposal, but I would like to see their ideas for increasing the visibility of the Pac-12 instead of just decrying Scott and this idea.