When night games go wrong

Night games are always a pretty special thing.

It typically means the game is on national TV and the nation’s attention will be on you. Northwestern is going to have a ton of night games this year in anticipation of a strong season. Everyone cannot wait for that potential top-15 matchup between Ohio State and Northwestern at Ryan Field in early October. In addition to night games against Syracuse and Western Michigan, Northwestern will have plenty of opportunities to showcase themselves in primetime.

One however, has Northwestern just a little bit peeved. That would be the recent announcement that the Wildcats will play the Golden Bears in the season opener in the Pac-12’s 9:30 p.m. CT slot on ESPN2.

While this game should give the Cats plenty of exposure — it is often the last game of the night and gets a lot of the football-hungry audience following the ABC primetime game — it also interferes with Northwestern’s preparations for the upcoming week.

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune reports Pat Fitzgerald and company are not too happy with the decision to put Northwestern’s season opener with Cal in that late-night slot. Greenstein reports Northwestern tried to get the game moved to Thursday or Friday to ease the travel for Northwestern (remember, NU will not be in class at that point). Cal did not like that idea because of traffic problems on campus.

And so, the Pac-12, Cal and its media partners made the decision and elected to feature Northwestern in that late-night spot. The Wildcats will now have to scramble and prepare for Syracuse, bumping them a bit off their schedule as they travel back from Berkeley/San Francisco on Sunday. The problem is Sunday is a day Northwestern likes to use to prepare for the next week of practices and gameplans.

Here, it seems, the Wildcats have become a victim of their own success.¬†Even Jim Phillips noted to Greenstein that this inconvenience is a sign of how successful Northwestern has become and the network’s desire to feature them in their national TV schedule.

Northwestern has longed for this kind of attention from the TV networks. Northwestern has often been relegated to BTN for these early season games or the crowded 11 a.m. CT slot on one of the big networks. Northwestern likes challenging itself in non-conference play and that has brought plenty of attention to the Wildcats early in the season. But it is not quite appointment television.

Again, a noon match with Syracuse on ESPN2 has to face off against the noon Eastern Time game on ESPN, BTN, ABC, the local Fox Sports affiliate and then any other regional coverage that might exist (in Florida, for instance, we also get a noon ACC and SEC game on TV). Getting the 9:30 CT spot puts Northwestern in the spotlight

Attention though comes with inconvenience. Northwestern will have to work around this added attention to prepare for Syracuse in Week Two.

Pat Fitzgerald will not like getting out of his routine, but he will not use it as an excuse come the Syracuse game.

  • This seems a tad overblown. After all, SU is week 2, and NU should be able to do a little work on the game plan before leaving for CA. Maybe NU can use the extra distraction of traveling on Sunday as a motivational tool. Better to be playing on TV than to have no national exposure, even though in all likelihood only west coast viewers will watch the game in its entirety.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Sure… but ‘Cuse has new offensive and defensive coordinators. You therefore don’t know what their offense or defense looks like until you break down the Penn State film.

  • jm

    The whining about this is out of control. Class not being in session makes the time difference moot, and a good team will handle a Syracuse team with an inexperienced coach and QB with one less prep day.

    • hoverlow

      As someone who lives in San Diego i was lookinf foward to thia game. I would of loved to take my family up to the game. But I have a 5 and a 7 yr old and a night game is out of the question. Oh well, I guess I will spend my money elsewhere and watch on tv.

    • VaWildcat

      What whining?

  • Alum Dad

    Much ado about nothing in my opinion. Good teams line up and play the games. Whining is for losers. Go Cats!

    • gocatsgo2003

      It shouldn’t really affect the players much, as Sunday is typically a film/gameplan day during which they’re off their feet as much as possible. It really impacts the coaches, who won’t know what the new coordinators at Syracuse are running with any certainty until they break down the Penn State film.

      • Fanaticat

        The game will finish 10:30pm PDT at earliest. If they get on a midnight red eye they will be exhausted and useless the next day. If they wait for an AM flight it will be at least mid afternoon Chicago time when they get back. Either way it will be a mostly wasted day.

  • Alum Dad

    Getting ready to head out to Arlington Racecourse for NU day. Hope to see lots of purple!

  • Icehockeycat

    Yea, I’d echo some of the comments here – this should not be an issue, and if it really is irking the staff, is actually somewhat concerning. I assume it is more of a preference not to do it than actual annoyance, but hope the fact that there have been a few articles on it now does not in itself become a distraction….
    Just play the games that are on the schedule

    • Catatonic Joe

      Every business traveler hates a red-eye flight from the west coast, but the Cats will deal with it like they dealt with playing every B1G team in the week after it’s bye last year (or so it seemed). BTW, I have seen two articles mentioning the coaching staff’s irritation, but already have seen four comments from you about your irritation with the coaches’ irritation. EVERYONE needs to keep perspective.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Ultimately, I don’t think they use it as an excuse. But these guys are creatures of habit. It is going to throw their schedules off just a little bit. And these guys are not pros, there are limits on how long they can practice their players.

  • CliffG

    What whining? The article has one quote from Dr. P saying it’s not our preference. There’s no story here, but the journalists need to create one, so . . .

    • Old Fat Bald Guy

      The article didn’t say “whining.” Somebody in this thread said “whining,” and then you went off on a typical, lame “Oh the media just makes things up” rant. The article quotes the athletic directors of both schools saying they wanted to play in the afternoon. You made something up.

      • CliffG

        And I didn’t say the article said “whining.” The article does, however, suggest more concern over the issue than the quotes from the ADs would indicate. As I said, stirring up a controversy that doesn’t exist. I made nothing up, OFBG.

  • David

    Cal was 3-9. Syracuse lost their coach and QB. This team will start 2-0 despite the timing of games.

  • jeffkosnett

    Really, much ado about nothing—- do the coaches really have to work at dawn on Sunday when we’ve seen Syracuse last year anyway (and now they have an inexperienced QB). Here in the East, I like this— can be out all day or whatever I might be doing on a summer Saturday and settle in after dinner with some purple wine and the Cats.
    Quit whining and play some football!

    • gocatsgo2003

      Yes — Syracuse’s new head coach was promoted from the defensive coordinator spot and they have new offensive and defensive coordinators. Therefore, though we can probably guess that kind of offense and defense they will run, there’s no way to know for sure. The coaches will therefore want to get through Syracuse’s game against Penn State ASAP in order to set/tinker with their game plan.

  • Alaskawildcat

    My concern isn’t the impact on the following week’s preparation for the Syracuse game, but rather the fact our players will be starting the game 30 minutes before their biological clock bed times. This game goes late into overtime and advantage is CAL.

    All one has to do is take a look at the history of mainland teams attempting to adjust to the time zone issues when they play in Hawaii.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Sounds like they will need a nap beforehand! Wait, that didn’t work.