Why Has Friday Night Become Such a Wasteland for College Basketball?

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 12:  A general interior view of the empty court during the semifinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Here is the Friday slate for college basketball this week: Stony Brook vs. Vermont, Jacksonville vs. North Florida and Fairfield vs. Iona. And here is the slate for the following Friday: St. Peter’s vs. Iona, Stetson vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Loyola (MD) vs. Manhattan, Canisius vs. Rider, Niagara vs. Sienna and Green Bay vs. Milwaukee.

In other words, don’t cancel your plans.

But why is this the case? In a sport that seemingly has marquee matchups every single night, how has Friday evening become such a wasteland for college basketball?

Like many things in life, there isn’t one simple answer or explanation. There are likely a number of reasons and I am only going to bring up a few here, so feel free to leave your hypotheses in the comments below.

For one, high school sports have something close to a monopoly on Friday nights in the fall and winter. Yes, many people associate Friday nights and high school with the lights of football thanks in part to one of the most underrated television programs in my lifetime, but there is plenty of basketball to kick off the local weekends as well.

Now, maybe I am giving too much credit to collegiate sports (not that we as a public have ever been duped by college athletics before), but I would like to think there is a certain level of respect given to the Americana of high school and community when scheduling the bigger games.

After all, how many hoops fans in Indiana are going to go to the local high school contest if the Hoosiers are playing Michigan on Friday night?

Of course the real reason behind the wasteland that is Friday for college basketball is probably much less altruistic. Whereas the majority of people who watch a high school event do so in person, television is the primary stimulus behind major collegiate sports.

There just isn’t much demand for quality television on Friday nights period. It’s almost a death sentence for a network show to be moved to the Friday evening time slot because the ratings simply aren’t going to be what is desired.

In today’s world of television deals driving conference realignment, it’s a bit naive to assume that conference commissioners and athletic directors don’t realize their games aren’t going to draw in as many eyeballs on a Friday night when people are celebrating the end of the workweek outside of their homes.

In a further effort to maximize the number of people watching, attending or talking about “the game,” colleges have virtually made weekend contests noteworthy events.

Whether it is tailgating for football or showing up early and spending the day on campus for basketball, weekend sports have a way of evolving into something more than just the outcome of the game.

Frankly speaking, it just gives the fans more time to identify and spend time with the brand that is Big State U. athletics when the games are on Saturday or Sunday instead of Friday—which in turn encourages future attendance.

From the athletes’ point of view (because as we all know, college sports always look out for the student athletes first and foremost while money generating takes a back seat), weekend games make more sense as well.

College basketball teams often play two games a week, and with travel and class schedules it just makes more sense to spread them out by putting one on the weekend.

There may not seem like much of a difference between a Friday night and Saturday afternoon game to you, but try telling that to a point guard in the Big Ten who needs an extra ice bath to recover from the pounding he took when he continuously ventured into the paint on a Wednesday evening.

Of course these are just a few possibilities. Why do you think Friday nights have become such a wasteland for college basketball?