Vaught's Views: TV now dictating Wildcats' schedule

October 07, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Remember the days when college football games were played on Saturday? The only debate not long ago was whether a game should kick off in the afternoon or be played at night.

But no more.

Now it seems like college football has followed the path of college basketball and is playing nationally televised games almost every day of the week.

Kentucky and Louisville opened the season with an ESPN2 game on a Sunday night. ESPN regularly shows a game on Friday night, a time that was once sacred for high school football. Louisville even played a Tuesday game last season.

Then there are Thursday night games shown on ESPN like the one Thursday when Kentucky plays at South Carolina, a game that was originally scheduled for this Saturday but moved to get both teams on national TV.


Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said moving the game to Thursday was easier because both teams had an open date last week. Rather than having a short week of practice due to moving the game, each team still had ample time to prepare for Thursday's game that both need to win to enhance their postseason status.

"I don't think there's any reason to not do that (play on Thursday)," said Brooks Monday. "It would be a lot more difficult if we were coming off a Saturday game. I think there are a lot more positives than negatives in this particular game for our program.

"If I had my druthers, I'd probably like to play only Saturday games."

Yet Brooks knows that's no longer possible. Not when football and men's basketball at schools like Kentucky have to support other sports such as soccer, swimming, cross country, track, gymnastics and baseball.

That's why UK will be playing Thursday and why the UK basketball team will have four 9 p.m. weeknight games on ESPN this season. It's why if TV wants the starting time for a UK football game changed, it will happen no matter what it does to travel plans for UK fans who bought tickets months in advance.

Exposure helps recruiting, recruiting impacts winning, and winning leads to more revenue. That's the bottom line in any decision-making process when it comes to TV.

"We're in an era when the dollar and the television contracts usually control not only what day, but when you're going to start your game," Brooks said. "That's the reality we live in and that's what we deal with."

The good news is that players don't mind how TV dictates scheduling because they like the exposure. Who wouldn't?

"I don't think I've ever played on a Thursday night," Kentucky senior center Nick Seitze said. "It's something different. I like the fact that with our team being on national television, we get the chance to show the nation what we can do. We're trying to get Kentucky more exposure nationally, and this is one way to do it."

However, there's one other thing UK needs to do. It lost to Louisville and Alabama on ESPN. It lost to Florida on a regional TV telecast last week.

As nice as exposure is, Kentucky also needs to win one of these nationally televised games because that would make the long-term payoff for letting TV dictate the schedule even bigger.

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