Thursday Night Lights?

Sept. 26, 2012, 10:38 p.m.

Thursday night lights?

Not a good idea.

The switch in the football schedule for this week’s game against Washington, from Saturday to Thursday night, offers a glimpse at one of the unintended, though hardly unanticipated, consequences of the new Pac-12 and its enthusiasm for a coordinated schedule of televised football games.

It didn’t always matter what day and time other conference teams played their games. If UCLA played Cal the same time we played Washington, no big deal. Now, suddenly, it matters.

It matters because, apparently, the new Pac-12 Network wants to maximize its live coverage of Pac-12 games by scheduling them consecutively rather than concurrently, such that, ideally, no two games share the same day and time. If that’s the plan, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on teams to play at least some games during the week.

No one can blame Stanford and other schools for wanting to benefit financially from televised games, even if it means games made longer by tedious commercial breaks. But weekday night games create unnecessary and avoidable hardships for both players and fans.

Yes, I know, a number of Stanford teams need to schedule games and meets during the week. But that’s precisely the point: Football, which requires at most one game a week, doesn’t need to do this. There’s no good reason – no, television revenues are not a good reason – to disadvantage football players. This week’s game at Washington, for example, will force these student-athletes to miss at least one (maybe two or three, depending on travel plans) full day(s) of classes.

Weeknight games are bad for fans, too, especially fans with academic commitments. And I’m not just referring to Stanford students. I know one loyal Cardinal fan who’s not going to be attending weeknight games: my daughter, a middle school student.

She’s been cheering from the stands, a few rows behind the Stanford bench, since she was four months old. She and my wife and I arrive at least two hours before the game, just in time for “The Walk.” Then we hang out at the Fan Fest until it’s time to watch the team warm up on the field. But on a weeknight? I don’t think so.

Stanford administrators and coaches should make Stanford the special place we always say it is – a school that cherishes athletic prowess but never at the expense of academic excellence – by putting the kibosh on weeknight football games.

Go Cardinal!

Theodore L. Glasser is a professor of communication at Stanford, a member of The Stanford Daily Board of Directors and an avid Cardinal fan.

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