Beginning June 17, a series of articles titled "A Modest Proposal" will be appearing every other Monday. The dates are June 17, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, September 9, September 23, October 7, and October 21. The ten part series will include ideas for ways to increase attention to the SoCon, Mocs basketball, NCAA basketball, or mid-major basketball. This is part one. Here's a link to all the articles.
The proposal here is that mid-majors should each have two or three of their conference games each week of conference season on Friday night.
There are two excellent reasons. We'll start with the less obvious, but equally important reason.
Officiating. On Saturdays, mid-major conferences consistently complain about terrible referees, claiming that they have better refs on the weekdays. Why are the refs better on the weekdays? Because there are fewer games for the best refs to be at. Therefore, a higher quality of referee is working the weekday games, in general, at mid-major conferences. On Saturday, the worst (or maybe just the least experienced) refs do the games. The best refs are at the ACC, SEC, or other big conference school. This leads to more bad calls, which could influence who wins the game, and, in turn, the conference titles. Since seeding has an impact on who wins the tournament, refs can play an impact on who goes to the tournament. Throw on top of that that the winner of the conference regular season title gets an automatic bid to the NIT if they do not win the conference tournament, and refs can have an impact on which school gets the most exposure and monetary benefit from college basketball.
Refs do not always have an impact on the outcome of the game, and I, in fact, think that it is often overrated. But it would help. Some.
The second point is more obvious. Coverage. Every conference has a media deal of some kind. Some with Fox. Some with ESPN. Some with other companies. Television is dying for the one thing that is DVR proof- live sporting events. To build up that inventory, mid-major conferences could provide more of it on a Friday night.
There is very little college basketball on Friday night. There is college basketball every other night of the week. The MAAC, Ivy, and occasionally a big conference (and maybe another one that I am forgetting) plays a game on Friday night.
I think every mid-major conference should start playing games on Friday night. Pick out two or three games for Friday night. Set up TV deals with whatever station to show a doubleheader (or tripleheader, if there is a West Coast conference involved) on Friday night. Make them wildcard games. The channels can pick whatever game they want from the selections. Two weeks out, the station can pick which two (or three games) they want to show from all the mid-major selections. The rest can be shown on-line (ESPN3? New Fox website? I don't know....) and provide a feeling of mid-major Friday night. There can be a limit on how many times a conference can appear on television, so that no one conference gets the biggest advantage from this.
An example: the SoCon could pick out Davidson's trip to Elon, along with Chattanooga's trip to Western Carolina that both could be happening on the same day. Two weeks before the game, ESPN could pick out one of those games to be on ESPN2 if there was not another game that ESPN preferred instead and set the game time for 7:00 PM. That game would air, and provide great exposure for the SoCon, and the two schools involved on a Friday night. The other game could be on ESPN3 at 7:00 PM on a Friday night.
The drawbacks are few and far between. The biggest drawback is that Friday night is a big night for college kids to go out, so attendance may be hurt. However, that's a small problem to deal with. Saturday night is also a big night for college kids to go out. So moving games from Saturday to Friday will not kill attendance. What about out of town people trying to come to the games? How much does that happen at a mid-major level anyway? Not as much as we'd like to believe. I say this an out of towner who does not get to as many games as I'd like to for my team and would prefer games to be Saturday because it is easier to get to. I would gladly trade that for more coverage of mid-major basketball. For conferences that play on Thursday (like the SoCon), this would make it almost impossible. However, teams playing on Thursday could be pushed back to Monday or something like that. What if the games were just pushed from Thursday to Friday? Their Saturday games could be pushed to Monday. It would not change much in terms of school time missed, I don't believe. There may be some other student athlete problems that I am not fully taking into account.
It is a simple thing, and yet, it would help provide coverage to mid-majors, live sporting events for Friday night and better officiating at the biggest mid-major games. I think this is a total winner for conferences.
If you have any other thoughts on this idea, feel free to share them with me in the comments section or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org