Thursday Night Home Games

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Thursday Night Home Games

The late Larry Munson was a visionary when it came to television's effect on scheduling.  The voice of the Georgia Bulldogs once said, "If TV told us to play at three in the morning then we would do it."

Munson said this before schools starting receiving $15 to $20 million dollars a year from the TV networks.  His statement is certainly truer today than ever before.  Why else would we play college football in the same time slot that used to house “Seinfeld”?

I guess we should thank our lucky stars that next Thursday night is just our third Thursday night home game.  I say this because to me, it just doesn't feel right and several issues arise.

To be fair, there are advantages to hosting Thursday night games.  You are the only game on and you don't have competition on television.  However, now the NFL has jumped on board and gives ESPN competition on Thursdays.  But the exposure is a positive for both teams on the college game each Thursday is valuable.

A second advantage is the extra time to prepare the following week.  A Thursday game gives your team an extra two days to recover and prepare for the next game.

But Thursday night home games also present problems.  I think the biggest is the loss of an opportunity for unofficial visits.  Coaching staffs value home games and the opportunity to bring in prized prospects to show off their game day atmosphere.  Those opportunities usually happen on Saturdays when the prospects and their families don't have to go to school or work.  Thursday night is tougher because of school the next day and the work day on Friday limits the number of players that can visit.

College administrators face issues when hosting Thursday night games as well.  Do they cancel classes for the entire day?  Do they cancel afternoon or night classes?  How do you handle parking on game day Thursdays?

At Clemson we have another huge issue.  Attendance.

Thursday night home games at Georgia Tech work.  The average crowd at a Georgia Tech is around 50,000 and Tech has little trouble attracting that number in a metro area on a Thursday night.

Clemson is a different animal.  Fans from Greenville and Anderson can still make it to Clemson for a Thursday night game but how about the fans that come from Columbia, Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta?

My sister is a great example.  She is one of the biggest Clemson fans I know.  Her and my brother-in-law get six tickets on the 50 for each home game.  They have twin 10-year-old girls and a 3-year-old son who never miss a home game.  I can't remember the last home game they missed, but they have to make a big decision next week.  Do they get their daughters out of school to come up early Thursday?  It’s clear they will have to miss school Friday.

Tiger fans will have to make a choice next week.  Can they take a day or a day and a half off from work to attend the Georgia Tech game?  Some don't have a choice because they couldn’t get off work even if they wanted to.

So I am interested to see how many fans will be in the stands next Thursday night.  If the game was on a Saturday my guess is that the game would draw 78,000 to 80,000.  I have serious doubts that it will be even close to that next Thursday.

I think that is a shame.  Clemson home games are about the entire day.  They are about tailgating and families.  This is not the easiest place to get to and many fans value the time here and stay longer than many places because of that.

I can remember the previous two times Clemson has hosted Thursday night games and attendance was a big issue.  This year is different because Clemson is a top 10 program and the athletic department has spent a lot of money promoting tickets for the game.  Still, I have my doubts.

Thank goodness this is only the third time but probably not the last.

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