Breakfast with the Pac-12? League exploring 9 a.m. kickoffs

Sam Cooper
BERKELEY, CA - DECEMBER 1:  A general view of the field and the Pac-12 logo in Memorial Stadium on the day of the 121st Big Game played between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal football teams on December 1, 2018 at the University of California in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
The Pac-12 is looking for ways to boost its exposure. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

You could be seeing Pac-12 football much earlier than you’re used to in 2019.

“Pac-12 After Dark” has become a staple of every college football Saturday, but playing late at night (games stretch into the early-morning hours on the East Coast) limits the conference’s exposure and can cause headaches for players and coaches, especially with travel.

At Pac-12 media day on Wednesday, commissioner Larry Scott brought up an idea that the conference believes could combat those issues. According to multiple outlets, Scott said the Pac-12 has had discussions with Fox about having some games kickoff at 9 a.m. PT. The idea, per NBC Sports, is to gain some added visibility on the East Coast by playing during the noon ET window.

“We’ve discussed it recently. That would be new and out of the box for our conference but I’ve tried to put everything on the table. There’s a lot of frustration from fans in certain markets to the late night kicks,” Scott told NBC Sports.

Scott characterized the discussions as in the preliminary stages. It’s an idea that still needs to be floated to athletic directors and coaches around the league.

One coach, Stanford’s David Shaw, was asked about the proposal. He is not on board.

“A 9 a.m. kickoff for us means you’re waking your players up at 6:00 in the morning. That is not necessarily a positive thing to do,” Shaw said. “With all the studies we’ve all read and conducted ourselves on our own campus, our sleep studies, it is better for young people to perform athletically if they get a full night’s sleep. And I don’t know that you can find any group of 18-to-22-year-olds that will go to bed at 10:00 at night to get up at 6:00 in the morning to be able to perform athletically.”

Though he would “push back” on the 9 a.m. start, Shaw said starting games “11, 11:30 or noon” would be “great.”

UCLA’s Chip Kelly, on the other hand, said his team is ready to play at any time, in any place.

“I'd kick off at 6:00 a.m. If you're a college football player or coach, you want to wake up and you want to play football. The hardest thing with Saturdays is when you wake up and then you've got to wait until 7:00 at night,” Kelly said.

”We're also big on we don't control our schedule and when we kick off. So tell us where it is and when we're kicking off, and we'll be there. We practice in the morning, so we're morning people. We'd love to do things in the morning. I don't know if our fans would, but again, I don't have a vote, so I don't care. Just tell us when we're kicking.”

The idea of early kickoffs was floated by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News in June. While early kickoffs could impact ticket sales, Wilner wrote, they could pay dividends with the “enhanced marketing/branding of teams and players.”

If the Pac-12’s top quarterback were to throw four touchdowns during a 9 a.m. game — if the top tailback were to rush for 200 yards — the highlights would be repeated, all day and night, on the ESPN and Fox studio shows. Top-25 pollsters, playoff selection committee members and Heisman voters alike would have greater exposure to the next Khalil Tate or Justin Herbert … or, um, Christian McCaffrey.

On top of that, pairing an attractive Pac-12 matchup opposite a sleepy Big Ten noon game could be a boon for Fox, a network that is putting a major emphasis on the noon window in the coming season.

The Pac-12 is thinking outside the box, at least.

Yahoo Sports’ Daniel Agnew contributed to this report from Pac-12 media day.

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