Stanford head coach David Shaw got to the bottom of one of the biggest problems that would exist of the Big 12 poached a bunch of the Pac-12 teams, or vice versa, as some have suggested, which is that the Pac-12 will target Big 12 teams in the next round of conference realignment.
And that problem is the jockeying for kick off times that would appease the athletic directors, fan bases, coaches and players.
Shaw told The Athletic this week that he was not happy about their season opener kicking off at 9:00 a.m. PST against Kansas State in Dallas, saying, “That, to me, is something that is egregious, and I don’t care who I piss off.”
Who can blame him for being annoyed about his team having a body clock of 9:00 a.m. when starting their first game of the season? Not me.
If the Big 12 Poaches the Pac-12
So let’s then continue from here and theoretically say a handful of Pac-12 teams join the Big 12. Well guess what? There will be plenty of those games that kick off at 11:00 a.m. CST/9:00 a.m. PST for the Pac-12 teams that may decide to head east and partner with the Big 12. Do you think David Shaw, and other Pac-12 coaches and players, will be wild about multiple games at 9:00 a.m. for their body clocks? Sure, these aren’t your average college kids, but what college kid likes 9:00 a.m. anyway and is fully functioning by then? Also, we need to discuss the fan aspect of this. On Saturdays, do Pac-12 fans really want to roll out of bed, and have barely finished a cup of coffee or two before their team is lining up for a 3rd down early in the first quarter? No. That’s not part of what makes the college football experience great. It’s the tailgates, the hype leading up to kick off, the anticipation, the pageantry that makes the sport what it is.
Now, let’s talk about the flip side…
If the Pac-12 Poaches the Big 12
So let’s now say that a handful of Big 12 teams end up joining the Pac-12. That would mean much of the opposite problem. The Big 12 would be kicking off many of its road games as late as 9:30 CST. With the length of college football games, these match ups may not end until after 1:00 a.m. CST. Is that healthy for college football players? Does Lincoln Riley want his guys’ body clocks to think it’s 1:00 a.m. as they’re facing a 4th and goal at the USC 2-yard line down by 4 points trying to score the game-winning touchdown? No and nor should he.
How about you, the Big 12 fan? Think you might be a little groggy for church on Sunday morning if your favorite team didn’t close out UCLA until the clock hit 1:15 a.m. just hours prior? That sounds horrible.
Heck, as a Big 12 fan myself, this sounds like a nightmare. My kids will be waking up just a few hours later. I’ll be miserable, my wife will be pissed, and Sunday will be off to a fantastic start!
What can be done?
Now I know ESPN and FOX don’t care about you and me. That’s long past understood. But this is where, whatever power is left in the conferences themselves (looking at you Bob Bowlsby), the University presidents, the big-time donors and boosters, the athletic directors and the college football coaches, will need to start barking now about what a disaster this would be.
I do believe that ESPN and FOX would prefer to have just four “power conferences” in football. It would save them millions, as they likely see some weak links in the Big 12 and Pac-12 that they could do without (indirectly, through disbursements) paying tens of millions of dollars each. As I wrote this past week, the eye balls for the Big 12 games are mostly driven by Oklahoma and Texas, so if the networks feel like they can get away without paying the Baylor’s, TCU’s, Iowa State’s and Kansas State’s of the world as much money for riding the OU/Texas coattails, they will do it.
And because of the stability of the Big Ten, SEC and ACC, the media narrative is already pushing for some type of Big 12-Pac-12 marriage.
But now is the time for the powers that be to speak up for the players, and yes, us, the fans, who don’t want to dread 9:30 p.m. CST kick off times on the west coast, or vice versa, 9:00 a.m. PST kick off times in the Heartland. It’s never too early to start pushing back. And that time is here.