Ever since Fox announced this spring that it will stage its biggest games of the day at noon Eastern time — thus getting ahead of the SEC on CBS at 3:30 and ABC’s Saturday Night Football package — those of us in the media have wondered aloud whether the Pac-12 would be willing to get in on the idea.
And it seems like they are, or at least some of the conference is.
One group that seems really into the idea is Fox itself.
John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal spoke to a Fox executive who said the network is on board with pushing Fox games to into the Big Noon Kickoff window — meaning, 9 a.m. Pacific time. In fact, Fox already has a couple games in mind.
Wow. Per @Ourand_SBJ, "Washington hosts Michigan in Week 1 in 2020, while Oregon hosts Ohio State in Week 2. I would expect Fox to push for one of those matchups to be the Pac-12’s first 9:00am local time kickoff."
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 26, 2019
These aren’t just big games for the Pac-12, they’re big games. Michigan at Washington and Ohio State at Oregon will be, by far, the biggest games on Pac-12 air for all of 2020. Michigan hasn’t played a game inside the home of a traditional Pac-10 program since 2003, and Ohio State hasn’t since 2008.
They’re games big enough that, should ABC secure the rights to air them instead of Fox, they would probably air in the Saturday Night Football window — which, obviously, airs at night on the East Coast and at 3:30 in the afternoon on the West Coast. The thing about 3:30 p.m. kickoffs for football games is that they come with the built-in benefit of not being 9 a.m. kickoffs.
It’s one thing to play a conference game at 9 a.m., but getting Ohio State or Michigan on your campus for the first time in a generation and then playing that game at 9 a.m? That’s a bummer for the entire university and the surrounding community. The university chemistry department, the bar across the street from the stadium, all of above — they surely have plans on the books right now to use those games as fundraising drives, and kicking those games at 9 a.m. makes that task significantly more difficult.
And, as ESPN’s David Hale pointed out, this would actually be an advantage for the visitors, since they’re kicking off at high noon on Body Clock Time, while Oregon and/or Washington would have to adjust to playing at 9 a.m.
1) This forces the home team to adjust, while the road team gets the benefit of essentially playing on east coast time.
2.) Why push these games for 9 am kickoff? These are brand name, big games that will have eyeballs if you kicked off at 3 a.m. on the moon. https://t.co/P8nUfb3TMW
— David! (@ADavidHaleJoint) August 26, 2019
Fox doesn’t care about any of that. They just want to train viewers to turn the clicker off ESPN at noon Eastern. Oregon, Washington and the entire Pac-12 will now have to decide how much this deal with the devil might actually cost.