Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tonight's The Night

Everybody around here is talking about the big event that will happen in a huge football stadium tonight.
They are the ones we've all been waiting for: our favorite football team.
ESPN, the worldwide leader in hype, opens the college football season from our little corner of the nation tonight at 8 ET. There are rumors that a competing event of some type will be happening out near the front range of the Rocky Mountains. But right-thinking Americans will be watching the proceedings from Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. They will be joining
Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Erin Andrews when they tune in.
Not many 6-6 teams get the kind of national TV exposure the Gamecocks get. Some people from outside of SEC country wonder why our USC is on national TV so often. Here's a quick explanation of part of the reason from The State, Columbia's daily paper:
Tonight, the Gamecocks open their season on a Thursday for the third time in Steve Spurrier’s four seasons as coach. It’ll be four out of five after next season’s rematch at N.C. State, tonight’s opponent.
The Gamecocks also play next Thursday night at Vanderbilt.
While a lot of SEC schools resist the Thursday night slot, South Carolina and Spurrier have embraced it. The reasons are both financial and practical.
An SEC bylaw states that any team playing on a “non-traditional playing date” — any day other than Saturday — will receive $200,000, with the home team earning another $100,000.
The national exposure also helps. According to ESPN, last year’s average rating for a Thursday game was 2.5, beating the network’s average (2.1) for all college football games.
“The numbers that we’ve gotten on Thursday night exposures are just fantastic,” USC athletics director Eric Hyman said. “And I think Steve recognizes that and is in concert.”
ESPN is contracted to do several Thursday games per year with the SEC, which then gauges who is interested. Schools like Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have always passed, in part because they have on-campus stadiums and playing a game on a school and work day causes major headaches.
Since Williams-Brice Stadium is off campus, USC is in better position to host. And ESPN has been eager to showcase Spurrier.
When he was hired four years ago, Spurrier decided his program needed more exposure. So he had a conversation with ESPN executive Dave Brown, who said Thursday nights were a good start. Spurrier agreed.
“I said we’ll do some Thursday night games during the season if you’ll put us on to open college football,” Spurrier said. “It’s just good publicity, hopefully good for recruiting, good for everything. It helps to win those games of course. But we get to show a full house here at Williams-Brice.”

The USC players say the national attention amps them up.
“I really think it does,” USC linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. “We kick off college football. You want to go out there and put on a good show for everyone in the country.”
Tonight is a good night to do what Bob Seger sang many years ago: "Get Out Of Denver."
Get outta Denver better go, go
Get outta Denver better go-ooooh
Get outta Denver better go, go
Get outta Denver
'Cause you look just like a commie
And you might just be a member,
Better Get outta Denver!