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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

1 and done

In Madison, Tom Oates mourns the passing of the 1 o'clock Saturday basketball game.

Never was the demise of the traditional game time more evident than when the UW men's basketball schedule was released this week. Of the Badgers' 18 exhibition and regular-season games at the Kohl Center, only one -- the opener against Penn on Nov.20 -- is sure to be played on a Saturday. And it will start at 7p.m...

So what happened to the 1 o'clock start?

Simple, really. This is what happens when you sell your soul to television. Big Ten schools have signed off on TV contracts with ABC and ESPN that give those networks almost absolute power to decide starting times of the games they televise and in some cases even those they don't. TV executives, not the schools, make the call.

A tough trade-off. As a college basketball junkie, I love watching multiple games a weekend. For such a feat to be possible -- and for those games to be attention-worthy -- creative scheduling and collegiate flexibility is a must.

On the other hand, as a fan who believes colleges have a responsibility to educate, not merely exploit, their student-athletes, I am troubled by late-night games and season-long travel schedules that take scholarship athletes away from campus and cut into class time.

On balance, I'm in favor of granting TV executives leeway, but not sole decision-making authority, in schedule design. Understanding, unfortunately, that universities have a significant monetary incentive to go along with the networks' "suggestions."