Thursday, September 19, 2013

Clemson, Thursday Nights, & Taylor Swift

Come Thursday, Clemson will once again play the role of good soldier as they head to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack. And this won't be their first foray into the Thursday night waters. Since 2002, Clemson has played in 10 Thursday night affairs, with numbers 11 & 12 coming this season. Overall, it averages to over one Thursday night game per year.

For a school that has been vocal in their dislike of Thursday night games, averaging more than a game a year seems heavy. A little too heavy.

Before anyone brings up the ACC TV contract, let me state I understand Clemson is within a conference and must fulfill certain conference obligations. With that said, I'm comfortable saying this: The burden (yes, burden) of Thursday night games has not been equally carried among all capable parties. And while that is a major concern, it is not the only concern.

With apologies to Taylor Swift, here are five reasons Clemson & Thursday nights should Never Ever Get Back Together Again:

Beast of Burden
As mentioned above, Clemson has borne more than their fair share of the burden. Unless the ACC has exclusive rights to the Thursday night market (they don't), then no ACC school should average more than a game a year (13 weeks of football, multiple conferences, multiple schools per conference, equals well less than 1 game every year). Unless you request it (looking to you VT & USC).

To show how out of balance the Thursday night responsibilities fall, in the last 11+ years (since 2002), Clemson's 12 appearances are topped by only VT (23 - 16 while in the ACC), Miami (17 - 11 while in the ACC), NC State (13), and Georgia Tech (13).

Furthermore, FSU has played 10 games (too many) while Wake, Maryland, UVA, BC, & UNC all top out at a maximum of 8 games.

And then there's Duke. The pride of the ACC in basketball has never graced a Thursday night in football.

Bad Company
If Thursday night games are such a good deal for the school, then why don't all schools play them? While the SEC's presence on Thursday night isn't as prevalent as the ACC's, the SEC is no stranger to Thursday night games. In that same 11+ year timeframe, the SEC has played in 36 Thursday night games (or 1/3 the total of the ACC). Of those 36 games, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee played nary a one, while Alabama (against Georgia State 10 days prior to Auburn) & Arkansas only have one notch. Additionally, LSU and Ole Miss have only played two Thursday night games each.

Conversely, USC has played in 13 Thursday night games, or over 1/3 of the SEC's total, while Auburn, Vandy, Miss St, & Kentucky have accounted for another 17 games.

Doesn't the ACC have the same rights as the SEC to choose which teams will and will not play on Thursdays? Can't the ACC hand Pitt, Syracuse, Duke, & Wake to ESPN and make them take it? That's what the SEC does, and no one seems to mind.

Regardless, why would the ACC trot out Clemson, Florida State, & Georgia Tech, representatives of half of the available Championship game slots, so often when those schools have more to lose than gain? And when they lose, the conference loses. And right now, this conference needs all the wins it can get.

We are Who We Thought They Were
Let's be honest, nothing good will come from Thursday night's tangle with NC State. One of three results will happen:
    - Clemson routs NC State
    - Clemson wins a close game
    - NC State pulls an upset
If Clemson routs NC State, what does that do other than make people think the ACC is bad, and Clemson plays an easy schedule.

If Clemson sneaks by NC State, the months of positive spin could be quickly eroded. The national media, especially the AP, could drop Clemson a few spots in the polls, which could potentially cost them an opportunity at a Championship.

If NC State defeats Clemson, the ACC will be ridiculed for being balanced, but mediocre. And Clemson gets permanently tattooed with the "Pulling a Clemson" label.

Lose-Lose for all involved.

Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful
Football Saturday's have become the epicenter of major recruiting efforts, and we're only graced with 6-7 of these dates a year. When you are forced to host a Thursday night game, you miss out on many opportunities a normal Saturday brings.

For one, recruitment. Nearly 40 potential recruits were in attendance for the Georgia game, any one of which could be the missing piece between a good season and a great season. Then, for SC State, Clemson hosted another 8 recruits.

Guess how many will be at the Thursday night Georgia Tech game. None. Absolutely none.

Revenue. Clemson is currently 2-2 on ticket sales, with both the Georgia & SC State games being sell outs. The trend could continue for Wake, BC, & FSU (certainly).

Guess how many will be at the Thursday night Georgia Tech game. Under 70k. And guess how that plays out on national tv? Bad. Real bad. USC student section bad.

You Can't Get There from Here
Clemson's ultimate goal is to win a championship. Not an ACC championship, but a BCS Championship. Unfortunately, when it comes to participating in Thursday night games and playing for the BCS Championship, history is not on the side of the Thursday night games.

Since 2002, only three teams have played on a Thursday night and gone on to play for the BCS Championship: LSU (2011), Auburn (2010), Oregon (2010). Of those three, only Auburn has the trophy (side note - Auburn's Thursday night game in 2010 happened to occur the week before they played their closest game of the season - against Clemson).

Furthermore, since 2002, no team has ever played two Thursday night games and gone on to play in the BCS Championship.

Summary
There may have been a time when Clemson playing on a Thursday night was good publicity for the school, where the tv ratings, announcers, and campus previews overcame Clemson's well documented Thursday night struggles (maybe this is part of the "Pulling a Clemson" problem we're trying to overcome).

But that time is no more.

This year the stakes are high, and Clemson has more on the line against NC State and Georgia Tech than any other team in the country. Clemson has already dispatched one of the SEC's best, and has aspirations of Pasadena. Not to mention the weight of their cliché. And even if Clemson puts a beat down on both NC State and Georgia Tech, the service life of that win is short. And what is lost far outweighs anything gained.

So, after this year's fling, Clemson and Thursday nights "Should Never Ever Get Back Together Again".


7 comments:

  1. Really good read... I agree with your premise on this one, Thursday night games are lose/lose for high profile, highly ranked teams... They are basically only good for schools trying to get some air time and make a name for themselves (see S.Car 5 years ago). The only small edit I would make is changing "bared" to "borne" in the 5th paragraph. Other than that small typo, great job!

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    1. Thanks for the heads up! Surprised there weren't more errors seeing as this was complete nearing 2am.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Excellent article. You articulated extremely well what I've tried to say since FSU lost to Louisville on Thursday 10 years ago

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    1. Thanks for swinging by! FSU is in the same boat as Clemson when it comes to Thursday night games. Nothing to gain, everything to lose...

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  3. This article lacks basic logic. (1) Burden- You assert that playing on a Thursday is a burden but fail to explain why you feel it is a burden. Why is it more of a burden than playing at any other timeslot? Also, nobody wants to see Duke football. Very few Duke games are televised nationally at all, much less as the *only* game in a timeslot. (2) Bad Company - Really? You're dragging Pitt into this? Pitt has played 8 non-Saturday games in the last 3 seasons (spread between Mon, Wed, Thur & Fri). If you're arguing playing on a Thursday is harder than another weeknight, that's a stupid argument. Again, nobody wants to see Wake & Duke. (3) Who you thought you were - This section makes no sense. You have the same 3 outcomes possible regardless of when the game is played, and you make no effort to exaplin why you feel one outcome is more likely when the game is played on a Thursday than a Saturday. FSU played NC State last year on a Saturday and it didn't work out any better for them. (4) Recruiting - If there are 0 recruits at Thursday's game, that is Clemson's choice. Other schools have no trouble inviting recruits to Thursday night games. And if Clemson can't sellout a divisional game, that's just a testament to its fanbase. (5) Championship - By this logic, Clemson not only needs to leave behind Thursday night games to win a championship, but it also need to leave the ACC, since no ACC team has won a national championship since 2002.

    Look, this isn't rocket science. If you are a decent ACC program, you will play 1-2 Thursday night games per season. If you don't like that, just lose more and ESPN will eventually stop scheduling you.

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    1. Thanks for swinging by. I'll bite:

      1) The burden is that football is a huge deal to Clemson and its fanbase. A Thursday night game severely limits the ability of the fanbase to support this team. Also, because of the mediocre slate of games, Clemson-NC State would probably garner a premier weekend slot, which has brings in a larger audience than Thursday nights. Up to nearly twice as much

      If the Thursday night games were only about the best games, then we would have seen Bama-A&M rather than TCU-TT. Also, who gives a rip about Kentucky-Miss St, but that is the only SEC on SEC Thursday night game this year outside of the opener.

      2) Yes, I'll bring Pitt into this, and any one else that could use the slot. Clemson & FSU don't need nor want the Thursday space. Give it to someone who wants it.

      Again, I reiterate the Kentucky-Miss St argument. That's no better than a Duke-Wake matchup

      3) Because this game is on a Thursday night, it will get over analyzed. More than it should. The ultimate goal is showing this game, and in general all Thursday night games, are lose-lose situations for a favored, established team.

      4) There will be 0 recruits at the GT game because they can't get there. Clemson is not in a close enough proximity to major markets to allow recruits ample time to leave school and get to the game in time. Also, because of the smaller crowd size, the atmosphere may not be what the coaches want to sell.

      Also, Clemson sold out a game against an FCS school, and even with a slightly smaller crowd, will still have a crowd larger than every other ACC school sans FSU. Once again, the location of Clemson prohibits many working folk from making the trek to the upstate.

      5) Valid point, and I would be okay jettisoning the ACC, but it shows that of the 22 possible BCS Championship teams, only 3 played on Thursday night. Those aren't great numbers.

      I think we're ignoring the fundamental question - why should a really good team be forced to play on Thursday nights. What good does it provide the conference, and what benefit does it bring the programs (the ones that don't want it)...

      Thanks again for swinging by!

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  4. Agree 100% with the premise of this article. As a season ticket holder & booster of FSU, nothing good comes from these games. In addition to the points you made, we often forget that these are student athletes whose routines are now messed with- they have classes. If the home team's stadium is on campus, you also have parking and traffic nightmares since the game is on a school night. Now, consider the fan bases. Many season ticket holders travel a good distance to their school/city for a weekend and make an entire weekend out of a Saturday game. Some cities' economies need game weekends. Many people cannot take off work and/or they travel too far to make it for a Thursday night home game. For many years, we traveled with young, school-age children to the games. This option is out for Thursday night games as they have school on Friday and can't stay up late on a Thursday night (unless they happen to catch a convenient cold). My final thought is that the NFL is now playing Thursday nights so the college game is no longer the only game on TV...tonight, for instance, most sports fans outside of the southeast, will watch Andy Reid's Chiefs play in Philly. So, I agree 100%...there is more to lose than gain for a top tier program.

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