Calm Down Fans, Thursday Night College Football Games Are Great for the Sport

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2014

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 19:  The mascot of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 19, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The ACC released the schedule for the 2014 season, which included the additions of Louisville and Notre Dame.

One thing is clear: There is still a massive disconnect among fans on the merits of non-Saturday football games. Make no mistake—the bonus football during the week is not only necessary, but it's a positive for the teams and conferences involved.

Some folks love Thursday-nighters. Some hate the idea of not playing on a Saturday. Many embrace the idea of being the big show in town for the college landscape. Others look at how their team is not on the Saturday showcase and view Thursday as a downgrade.

Part of the Saturday-only purview is the lusting for ESPN's College GameDay to show up to validate the importance of a program's contest. It is the fanfare, the big show and the ballgame that, in many folks' minds, define success.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

It is an older mode of thinking that ignores several elements of the equation: It does not speak to the bevy of games that make Saturday night a channel-changing endeavor for most fans without a dog in the hunt for the evening. There is also no nod to day games on Saturdays pulling big numbers, as long as the teams are of interest.

When good football is on, people are going to watch it. Whether it's ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, CBS or Fox. When multiple good games are on the tube, people are going to navigate the contests and watch. However, when only one game is on a major college football network, that is the only game people are watching. 

And that is what the ACC, and ESPN, are angling for with their joint scheduling practices.

With the exception of the Big Ten and Notre Dame, every conference consistently plays non-Saturday games, and each league has its own process.

In the SEC, Thursdays are a chance for teams that don't often pull CBS or ESPN games to get some shine. For the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC, Thursdays are a means to put the leagues' quality products out as the biggest shows in town.

M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

The SEC and the Big Ten are the nation's two strongest products, as conferences. Thus, the other big leagues are playing a sort of odd game of catch-up. The broadcast networks that own the rights to other leagues have to find space for them; not because the games are unworthy of Saturday, but because showing off the product is a must.

Both ESPN and Fox have to push the quality out in front to get more eyeballs on their other properties. Essentially, for the networks, these non-Saturday contests featuring marquee teams in the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC work as a sort of ambassador, showcasing the conferences.

Meanwhile, for the teams, these games act as increased exposure. For every person complaining about the game not being on Saturday, there is a coach rubbing his hands together because he knows all eyes will be on his team. There's a program itching to get on the stage to show what it can do.

Given the massive inventory of college football games, non-Saturday games are here to stay. Instead of a network competing with itself, they get multiple showcase games by rolling out a quality meeting during the week. The games are good for the networks and they are good for the programs—something more folks should realize.