College football fandom becomes an obsession for most people. Watching games starting at 11 am or noon with the last games not getting over until well after midnight. Fans want to suck every last ounce of college football out of the day because the season is only about four months long. The regular season for college football is shorter than just about every other major sports. Luckily we have the Pac-12 scheduling games starting at 7:30 PM local time meaning they kickoff at 10:30 PM on the east coast. Enjoying Pac-12 after dark is number 20 in our series 99 Things.
Pac-12 after dark has been the host to numerous high profile games. One of the most famous occurred in 2005 when Fresno State took on USC where kickoff occurred at 7:15 PM local time. USC was the defending national champion and led by Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Fresno State was 8-1 and was led by quarterback Paul Pinegar. Fresno State gave USC one of their toughest battles of the season with the Bulldogs leading 42-41 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. USC would come back and win 50-42 but nonetheless it was an exciting game. The slate of games prior to USC vs Fresno State included Ohio State vs Michigan, the Iron Bowl, Penn State vs Michigan State and Georgia Tech upsetting third ranked Miami. Pac-12 after dark helps spread out the games so the action is not consolidated into one time slot.
Pac-12 after dark has not been popular with the ratings which has resulted in possible changes coming in the future. The Pac-12 has proposed 9:00 AM local starts to help attract the eyes of east coast viewers. Obviously this was not popular with fans of Pac-12 teams because the atmosphere in the stadium would be nonexistent. Another change is USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten. Nothing has been released about potential game times but speculation exists believing they both will still have opportunities for night games. Does this mean we could be seeing Big Ten after dark? Every team should have the chance to host a game at 7:30 PM because the atmosphere for night games is unmatched. Will USC get to play Nebraska, Minnesota or Michigan State at night? The evolution to have Big Ten after dark was not on many fan’s radars until the Trojans and Bruins announced they would be switching conferences.
Pac-12 after dark is great for college football obsessed fans but not for the conference and the schools. Viewership decreases significantly as most fans are not staying up until 1:00 AM to watch Oregon State vs Stanford, or at least not the truly dedicated fans. While I understand why it hurts the Pac-12 because limited exposure is not good for their longevity, I am selfish and wanted to watch college football for 14 hours straight on a Saturday. Pac-12 after dark is likely to continue but how many games will it feature? Will schools get more say in when the game is played or will the networks continue to dictate the times? Personally I hope the Pac-12 stays intact because I like having smaller conferences rather than super conferences (this topic is worthy of a whole different article). Let’s enjoy Pac-12 after dark while we have it because the future is not guaranteed and networks could choose to limit or remove it in the not too distant future.