SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 eyeing more weeknight games?
Though the ACC and Big Ten won't budge, the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 will consider expanded weeknight football lineups.
It appears more weeknight games are coming. Just depends on when.
After checking with each of the five power conferences, three of them -- SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 -- acknowledged they are open to more weeknight games beyond 2013.
The ACC and Big Ten are sticking with the traditional approach, with ACC commissioner John Swofford saying “we’ve been at five (Thursday night games) for a long time. I don’t anticipate expanding.”
But with a new 24-hour, ESPN-run channel looming in 2014, even the SEC could expand its current agreement of two Thursday night games.
“It’s certainly something that we would look at,” SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack said.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he suspects ESPN would like his conference in more Friday night games. Kansas State’s opener with North Dakota State is the league’s only Friday game this year. A compromise, Bowlsby said, might be potential Friday action in late November, similar to the Oklahoma State-Iowa State matchup from two years ago, as long as high school games in the Big 12 footprint aren’t compromised.
Though Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was unavailable for comment, a high-ranking Pac-12 source confirmed that the league could increase its slate of eight weeknight games per year.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is clear -- the only time he’ll entertain weekday games is “before Labor Day and the Friday before Thanksgiving.” This season, Indiana plays Indiana State on Thursday, Aug. 29, and Nebraska plays Iowa on Friday, Nov. 29, for example.
ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming Burke Magnus says many schools like the “vacant real estate” of Thursday night games, the feeling of exclusivity.
The network feels it can get creative with late-weeknight matchups while still maintaining exclusivity because there’s still an abundance of Saturday content.
When asked whether Saturday lineups would eventually suffer with expanded weeknight packages, Magnus said, “We’re nowhere near that.”
Competing with the NFL’s Thursday night lineups is a serious challenge, even futile in some cases, but that will be there regardless. It’s clear in talking with these conferences that the networks like the weeknight games enough to keep asking for them.
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