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Football's Lack Of Exposure On Thursday Nights

BC played their last Thursday night ESPN game in 2007, and haven't played under the Thursday night lights at Alumni Stadium since October 2006. (BCI)
BC played their last Thursday night ESPN game in 2007, and haven't played under the Thursday night lights at Alumni Stadium since October 2006. (BCI)

Brian: A few weeks ago, ESPN announced its 2010 prime time college football schedule, including their slate of 15 Thursday night games. Five ACC teams will play on Thursday night this season, including two appearances by N.C. State:

Thu, Sep 16 - Cincinnati at N.C. State
Thu, Sep 23 - Miami at Pittsburgh
Thu, Oct 28 - Florida State at N.C. State
Thu, Nov 4 - Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech

For the third straight season, BC doesn’t have a Thursday night game. You have to go all the way back to October 25, 2007 to find the last time the Eagles played a Thursday night game televised on ESPN, and back even further (October 16, 2006) to find the last Eagles' Thursday night home game.

Playing on Thursday nights certainly has its perks, including increased program exposure as a result of being the only college football game on TV that night. In the ACC, historically, Virginia Tech has owned Thursday nights.

Here is a look at the total number of Thursday night games ACC teams have played from 2005-2010:

Virginia Tech - 11
N.C. State - 8
Georgia Tech - 7
Miami - 6
Boston College - 5
Clemson - 5
Florida State - 5
Maryland - 4
North Carolina - 4
Wake Forest - 3
Virginia - 2
Duke - 0

In the ACC, only BC, Virginia and Duke will have not played an ESPN televised Thursday night game in the last 3 seasons. Are you at all concerned that BC’s five Thursday night games were all played in the Eagles’ first three years in the conference? If a program goes multiple years without getting on ESPN’s Thursday night telecast, can this negatively impact the program in terms of national interest and recruiting? Your thoughts?

Jeff: I think we agree that we hope to see Thursday night games every season on BC's schedule when it comes out. However, that doesn't mean we're hoping for a BC Thursday night game matchup that we are planning on attending in person. Thursday night games are great for television exposure and those big ratings must have a positive impact on the program whether that be recruiting or future ticket sales. If you are attending the game, Thursday games are far from ideal. Too many fans travel from out of town for Thursday night games to be a true huge success.

Not having a Thursday night game is not a death sentence. There is really no correlation between being a part of the Thursday night game and program success. ESPN could put the best matchups on Thursday but they don't for a reason. Do they expect N.C. State to be highly ranked this season? Yet they'll be on twice this season. N.C. State and Virginia Tech have clearly embrassed hosting the Thursday night games which brings ESPN back. You know the people of Newton and Brighton are not looking forward to the next Thursday night home game.

Brian: While I don't think we could prove a correlation between playing on Thursday night and program success, I think there's something to the list of teams and number of Thursday night appearances. As you said, Virginia Tech has embraced playing on Thursday nights at Lane Stadium. The Hokies have also been the most successful ACC program since the league expanded to 12 teams. 

On the other end of the list, you have programs like Maryland, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia and Duke with the fewest appearances on Thursday night. These programs have had limited football success since the conference expanded to 12 programs. Now you can easily argue that this is a case of causation, not correlation (the better your football program, the more TV exposure you command on ESPN), but there are some perks of playing on Thursday night that probably help sustain a program's success in the long run.