When Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (seen above) talked about having some conference games kick off as early as noon Eastern (10 a.m. Mountain, 9 a.m. Pacific) last month, that came with a proviso that the move could come as quickly as this year. That would fit with Fox’s new emphasis on the noon Eastern window, which they’re using their new pregame show “Big Noon Kickoff” to build up to. Well, according to Jon Wilner of The San Jose Mercury News, there won’t be any Pac-12 games in that window this season, but the conference hasn’t gone away from the idea. Here’s more from Wilner on that:
Andrew Walker, head of communications for the Pac-12, said several schools are interested in playing early, but the conference couldn’t find “good options” over the coming three months.
The plan, Walker added, is to monitor whichever Big 12 and Big Ten games are slotted into the 9 a.m. window, then re-assess for next season.
By delaying any early kickoffs until at least 2020, the Pac-12 will allow time for the schools and fans to plan for the unusual logistics.
There was quite a bit of negative fan reaction towards this idea when it first came up, so having it not happen this season is at least a partial win there. And it makes sense that it was tough to figure out spots to do this so close to the start of the season. As Walker notes there, that also lets the Pac-12 see what happens with the games from other conferences that are going to air in that window this season. But it does still sound like some Pac-12 schools plan to go ahead with this, just not this season.
And if any Pac-12 schools do go ahead with this, the games are going to be awfully early. Eight of the conference’s 12 schools (Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, USC and UCLA) are in the Pacific Time Zone, and Arizona’s decision to not use Daylight Savings Time means that despite being in the Mountain Time Zone, Arizona and Arizona State are at GMT-7 (equivalent to Pacific Time) until early November. Colorado and Utah are the two Pac-12 member schools who are on Mountain Time year-round, but a noon ET game would still be a 10 a.m. kickoff for them. As Sam Cooper wrote at Yahoo when this was floated last month, some coaches have already expressed concerns about the proposed early kickoffs, including Stanford’s David Shaw:
One coach, Stanford’s David Shaw, was asked about the proposal. He is not on board.
“A 9 a.m. kickoff for us means you’re waking your players up at 6:00 in the morning. That is not necessarily a positive thing to do,” Shaw said. “With all the studies we’ve all read and conducted ourselves on our own campus, our sleep studies, it is better for young people to perform athletically if they get a full night’s sleep. And I don’t know that you can find any group of 18-to-22-year-olds that will go to bed at 10:00 at night to get up at 6:00 in the morning to be able to perform athletically.”
Though he would “push back” on the 9 a.m. start, Shaw said starting games “11, 11:30 or noon” would be “great.”
That opinion’s not universal, though, with UCLA’s Chip Kelly mentioning in that article that he’d prefer early kickoffs to late-night ones (something Pac-12 coaches and administrators have long complained about). But the early kickoffs definitely do pose some challenges for both players and fans, and it’s unclear how much of a benefit the Pac-12 will actually get from them; maybe they’ll pick up some more national TV eyeballs on those games than they would if those games were played against heavy competition, but part of the problem there isn’t the time, it’s the current state of interest in the Pac-12’s product. We’ll see if they do actually wind up with noon Eastern kickoffs down the road, and if so, how those work out for them.