Those on the west coast may enjoy their coffee but 9am Pac-12 games were a ridiculous thought. And fortunately, for at least one year, Larry Scott decided it is the Pac-12’s best interest to avoid 9am kickoffs.
The idea gained some traction earlier in the offseason, as it would allow games to be featured at 12 pm on the east coast, putting them in a more favorable TV time slot. This was much to the chagrin of west coast fans, who would lose their precious tailgating time and would have to get up at the crack of dawn. It would also take them away from watching some great Big Ten and early east coast games.
The decision to squash 9am Pac-12 games was a good one, but it was only step one in what should eventually be an overhaul of the conference’s priorities. Gone should be the days of focusing on TV deals and bowing down to the desires of the big TV stations – who are always going to prioritize the SEC and ACC anyway.
Instead, the Pac-12 must re-align themselves with their fan bases, making games a much more enjoyable experience. Fans should be encouraged to enjoy the stadium, not have to worry about where they will watch their favorite teams.
Time for the Pac-12 to be Forward Thinking with Distribution
Sure, TV is still a lucrative business for college football – but with less and less younger people subscribing to cable, and with ESPN and other big-name sports broadcasters losing business left and right, it makes sense for the Pac-12 to stay progressive and ahead of the curve.
Perhaps they could look into making their games more accessible on social media? Or on subscription services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, the latter of which is in the University of Washington’s backyard? These things may become tricky if the NCAA steps in, but it is worth looking into for a conference that should not be afraid to stir things up instead of catering to the TV powers that be.
Engage with fans, in-person, and not during 9am Pac-12 kickoffs
There are, of course, multiple ways to cater to fans that don’t also disrupt the enjoyment of the game on TV, including lowering concession prices, selling alcohol in the stadiums (five stadiums don’t allow alcohol, and many others only allow it in small areas) and upping fan interaction with players and coaches. Teams could offer more on-field activities, autograph sessions, tailgating with players, etc.
Overall, the Pac-12 is running into serious financial issues thanks to a myriad of concerns at the upper level of the conference. Bowing down to an outdated industry like TV is only going to make things worse. To think 9am Pac-12 kickoffs would bring additional revenue completely ignores what should drive conference decisions: coaches, players and fan experience. What good is it to broadcast a 9am game to the nation when half the seats in the stadium are empty? Is this the impression the Pac-12 wants to make to national audiences?
The west coast is progressive and so is the Pac-12. 9am kickoffs, however imaginative and new to those in the west, are not. Instead the conference needs to be innovative the ways it engages fans at stadiums, taking some of the responsibility from individual programs and helping change the image of the Pac-12 for the better.