Report: Pac-12 could push to schedule 9 a.m. games vs. Big Ten teams in 2020

Ryan Young

For some reason, Fox and the Pac-12 are still standing by their idea to try out 9 a.m. football games — something that may end up being a reality next fall.

According to Sports Business Daily, Fox executives want to try scheduling a game at 9 a.m. PT in 2020 and market it as a special event “similar to the NHL Winter Classic or a college basketball game on an aircraft carrier.” Though that comparison isn’t really valid — the NHL Winter Classic is held outside in a football stadium and the basketball game on a military vessel, while the Pac-12 would simply be moving kickoff time a few hours — Fox Sports executive Mike Mulvihill is open to the idea, especially if it has another major conference involved.

“We would be interested in exploring opportunities beyond this season,” Mulvihill said, via Sports Business Daily. “I take it as a validation of our noon strategy that we have another major conference that’s open to participating and doing it in what would be an unconventional way.”

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The league, according to the San Jose Mercury News, looked into scheduling games in that time slot for this season, and even had several schools interested. They couldn’t find any “good options,” however, and instead plan to try again for 2020.

There are two marquee Big Ten-Pac-12 games set for early next fall, too, which could make for ideal early morning matchups.

Washington will host Michigan in Week 1 to open the season, and then Oregon will host Ohio State the next week. While a lot can change between now and next fall, those two games will likely be some of the most competitive early season bouts in 2020 — games that Fox, and other networks, will undoubtedly push to host in primetime.

The Pac-12 and Fox aren't giving up scheduling 9 a.m. games on the West Coast — and want to start next fall.
The Pac-12 and Fox aren't giving up scheduling 9 a.m. games on the West Coast — and want to start next fall. (Joseph Weiser/Getty Images)

Scheduling a 9 a.m. game would open the Pac-12 up to the rest of the country in the 12 p.m. ET television time slot, instead of its common late-night games that are rarely seen on the East Coast. It’s hard to imagine, however, that the morning games are something the league can do very often.

Teams aren’t going to want to play that early more than once, if at all. It would mean waking up staff and players in the middle of the night, and then getting them in the right mindset to play a high-stakes football game when the West Coast is just normally waking up.

It would also be tough for fans. Tailgating time would be cut down immensely — if not completely. The idea has been floated as a possible “centerpiece for a day-long campus celebration,” too, but it’d be hard to have a day-long celebration when that centerpiece is done before noon.

Both Fox and the Pac-12 seem keen on making this idea work. Making it a permanent thing, however, sounds like it would only end up hurting the teams and their fans in the long run.

And in reality, it’s them the league needs to be focused on — not people on the other side of the country.

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