Weeknight game a challenge

As Monday’s national championship game between Ohio State and the University of Florida went into the wee hours – probably past midnight in the Eastern time zone – many Florida Gators fans may ask themselves: Why wasn’t this game played last Friday night?

The answer is one those who oversee big-time college football are reluctant to admit: Television and bowl game committees call the shots for college football.

Ideally, this game would be played on a Friday night, when many viewers, especially school kids, could stay up for the entire game. But Friday is a night when many people go out, which might affect ratings. Instead, the college football championship, like the World Series, will conclude past bedtime for millions of fans.

In 2004 a Bowl Championship Series committee proposed adding a fifth bowl game because some university presidents complained their schools were missing out on BCS revenues.

The decision to add a game makes clear the argument most often used against implementing a playoff format – that it would cost student-athletes too much class time – is specious.

The players arrived in Arizona on Tuesday, even though winter-quarter classes had started at Ohio State. But what’s a week or so of classes when millions of dollars are at stake?

Penn State’s venerable Joe Paterno, whose team was in Tampa the other day for the Outback Bowl, is disturbed by this trend. He has gone on record favoring a 32-team playoff format with a reduction of the regular season to nine games. But he acknowledges that it “won’t happen in my lifetime.”

The University of Florida played its 14th game Monday night. The old anti-playoff sophistry about concern for academics and not wanting to extend the season sounds hollower every year. Still, if college football is going to stick with the current format, officials should at least think about fans who have to get up for work and classes the next day.

Go, Gators!

From the Tampa Tribune