Everyone knows: Fall Friday nights across America are football nights. If there was ever any doubt about that, the book/movie/television pop culture triumvirate that is Friday Night Lights put that to rest. Yet, in the Pacific Northwest, high school football coaches are concerned about their unique purchase on Friday night's collective attention, for a simple reason: They may be getting upstaged by college teams as soon as 2012.
According to the Portland Oregonian, the current distress comes from the newest television deal for the Pac-10 Conference, which will hand deliver one game a week on a Friday night to be televised nationally on ESPN. The games will serve as prime television fodder for the all sports TV giant, but it will also distract some of the usual captive audience that has long dedicated itself to Oregon high school football from late August to early December.
Not surprisingly, the Pac 10's move hasn't been greeted enthusiastically by some of the coaches who help train a majority of the athletes who go on to star in the Pac 10 itself.
"I think high school football is kind of a Friday night gig," Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury told the Oregonian. "Those guys play every night of the week. I would think there would be one sacred day that they could leave for the high school kids, for the purity of the high school game. It's all about money."
It's hard not to feel like the new Friday night games carry with them a certain degree of the mouth biting the hand that feeds it. Clearly, Oregon coaches aren't happy that what has long been their own spotlight is going to be dimmed by a primo college game each week. Clearly, Oregon coaches aren't alone. You can bet that coaches in Washington and California feel the same way.
In fact, the only people who don't have anything to lose from the new TV deal are the people who will benefit most: ESPN.
Big shock, right?
The question now is what high school coaches can do about the indignity of being a second rate attraction. Conceivably, they could try to subtly encourage their athletes to attend non Pac 10 schools. While that would be both vindictive and, potentially, not in their best interest, it also seems unlikely.
In fact, there just doesn't seem to be much that the coaches can do, except complain about the forthcoming arrangement, of course. Luckily, they're happy to do that in spades already, as they should be.
"From our perspective, if they're going to come off Saturday, it would be better if they played on Thursday night rather than Friday night," said Tom Welter, executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association.
- high school football