Hokies young and old have been debating heavily the past few days whether or not the removal of the 2013-14 home Thursday night game is a good thing or bad thing. Students seem split on the issue, alumni seem split on the issue, and fans in general seem split on the issue. I’m here to help shed some light on the facts surrounding this decision.
Who decided Virginia Tech wouldn’t be playing a Thursday night home game?
Technically the ACC ultimately made the decision. However, Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver personally made the request to the ACC to remove a home Thursday night game this year. If you want to be angry about this decision, be angry at Jim Weaver, not the ACC.
Why did Weaver make this decision?
Here’s where things begin to get muddy.
Jim Weaver told David Teel, “…it was simply on behalf of our fans…something I thought we needed to do to say ‘thank you’ to them for being so good to us on Thursday Nights over the years.”
In a separate interview, Weaver stated that he never polled the fanbase about whether or not they wanted a home Thursday night game. Moreover, Weaver also stated, “he received only a handful of letters or emails from fans complaining about the number of non-Saturday games.”
It’s important to look at the wording Weaver has used when talking about this decision. He uses the word “fans” a lot. Who are the “fans” that he’s doing this for? Are they students? Alums? Out-of-staters? Recruits? Boosters?
Weaver would probably answer yes to all of the above. The big two are alumni and boosters, because that’s where Virginia Tech football’s lifeblood really is. Alumni and boosters donate about $15 million annually to the Hokie Club, which funnels money into programs like football and other athletics. Student fees, on the other hand, account for roughly $7.2 million of Virginia Tech’s athletic annual earnings.
In other words, alumni and boosters are about twice as important as students are monetarily. I believe this is at the heart of Jim Weaver’s decision. Often times it’s harder for alumni, boosters, and working class Hokies to make the trip to Blacksburg during the week. Often times making the trip requires taking multiple vacation days from work, which are often times limited throughout the year. This group is able to make the trip to Blacksburg on the weekend with much more ease than during the week. Perhaps Jim Weaver was catering to this group when he made this decision.
Will this continue in the future?
Will Thursday night games be a thing of the past?
Jim Weaver is on record as saying that this is a one-year deal for the moment, and that he expects to play a home Thursday night football game in 2014. However, this year could simply be a test-run of things to come. Thursday nights in college football aren’t nearly as popular as they once were. Why, you ask? For this we look to the NFL for answers.
This year marks the fourth straight year that the NFL’s Thursday Night Football has set an all-time high viewership mark for NFL Network. Moreover, the NFL Network saw an eight percent viewership increase from the 2011-12 season. Here’s the big one, “Each week of the 2012 Thursday Night Football schedule, NFL Network’s game telecast was the day’s most-watched program on cable television.”
The NFL is a beast right now on TV, and it sure as hell isn’t going anywhere. The NFL now owns Thursday nights in the fall. As the USFL learned the hard way, you don’t try to take on the NFL at its own game.
The teams that usually play on Thursday nights in college football aren’t usually the cream of the crop these days. The PAC-12 seems to like Thursday night games so on occasion you might get an Oregon or Stanford, but for the most part you’re going to get the likes of Tulane, Rutgers, and Arkansas State (no offense to those schools or their conferences – I love some non-BCS football). The SEC doesn’t play Thursday night football. The Big-12 (for the most part) doesn’t play Thursday night football. The Big-10 (for the most part) doesn’t play Thursday night football.
If Virginia Tech wants to be among the upper echelon of college football, like Virginia Tech fans want to think they are, perhaps they need to get off Thursday nights and get some primetime Saturday night games.
But the schedule is so bad! How are we supposed to get a primetime slot on Saturday night?
You won’t this year outside of the Alabama game on August 31st. The schedule this year doesn’t necessarily set Virginia Tech up to get a prime slot on TV simply because of how weak the schedule is (minus the Alabama game). In fact, if Virginia Tech plays less than four noon kickoff games this season, I’d be pleasantly surprised. This year’s schedule stinks. I think we can all agree on that one.
Looking forward, if Virginia Tech wanted to remove Thursday night games in favor of primetime slots on Saturday nights against big opponents, I think more people would be willing to hop on board with this proposal. In the 2014-15 season, the Hokies are starting a home-and-home series against Ohio State. Beyond that, a home-and-home series with Wisconsin is on the horizon as well. Would Virginia Tech fans be more accepting of a home Saturday night game against Ohio State? I like to think so, yes.
But what about recruits? They love Thursday night games!
The recruits that can make Thursday night games do love them. However, Thursday night football games have proven a headache for recruiting because it’s very difficult to get high schoolers from across the state to Blacksburg on a school night. Local kids may not have as big of a problem getting here; and out-of-state recruits can watch the game on TV. However, by hosting more games on Saturdays Virginia Tech will be able to accommodate more recruits on campus without scheduling conflicts. This includes the local kids, in-state kids that are closer to the “757” and Northern Virginia, and even some out-of-state prospects. Saturday games are simply more inclusive when it comes to recruiting.
This part of the situation is pretty straight forward, but I know people will find a way to argue against it. Go for it.
There are a lot of factors as to why Virginia Tech isn’t playing a Thursday night home football game this year. However, most of them are rooted in at least some (read: some) common sense. People like to overly emotional about things like this. I’m a student, and I get it. A Thursday night home game would have gone a long way to redeem this abysmal home slate. Looking into the future though, maybe scrapping the Thursday nighter will be a good thing for Virginia Tech football.
Whatever the case may be, fans just want one thing – to be able to start jumping.