Matches moved to Thursday … and here’s why
- #2 Washington @ #22 Colorado | Thu, Nov 13 | 5PM
- #2 Washington @ Utah | Sat, Nov 15 | 6PM
|Fans cheer Washington against Oregon State at Alaska Airlines Arena last Sunday|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Okay, sports fans, Full Court Friday is almost here. That’s what the Pac-12 Network is calling tomorrow’s six-hour lineup of must-see TV featuring, among others, South Carolina State. The Bulldogs, of the Mid-Eastern (MEAC) Conference, are coming off a 9-21 season when they finished with an RPI of 332 (1 is the highest RPI possible, 349 is lowest). You can also tune in to see Alcorn State (12-19, 315 RPI), Ball State (5-25, 311 RPI), Rice (7-23, 301 RPI), Montana State (14-17, 277 RPI), Coppin State (12-20, 263 RPI), Chicago State (13-19, 260 RPI), Mt. St. Mary’s (16-17, 196 RPI), Wofford (20-13, 152 RPI) and Drexel (16-14, 135 RPI).
These are all fine schools. While most struggled last season, any one of them could have a breakthrough year this time around. And, if you haven’t yet figured it out, each of these schools is sending its men’s basketball team into a Pac-12 Arena Friday for the Pac-12 Network’s wall-to-wall launch of the 2014-15 men’s basketball season.
What you won’t see, of course, is any women’s volleyball on the Pac-12 Network this Friday. Instead, three big volleyball matches were pushed back to tonight (Thursday): #1 Stanford at #18 UCLA, #2 Washington at #22 Colorado and #10 Oregon at #14 Arizona.
Pac-12 volleyball matches used to be Friday and Saturday nights. With the launch of the Pac-12 Networks three seasons ago, Saturday matches were all but eliminated to accommodate football telecasts. Most weeks now feature a single Wednesday marquee volleyball match, with the other Saturday matches shifted to Sunday.
As we documented in a post last week, Pac-12 volleyball attendance has suffered. While fans can watch their favorite teams at home and on the road on the Network, helter-skelter live TV scheduling on odd days at odd times (including Sunday mornings and evenings) has coincided with a decline in those who actually sit in the stands. The one exception: Friday nights, when volleyball attendance has been strongest.
And so, the Pac-12 Network’s decision to push volleyball out of its Friday timeslot this week means:
- Washington had to leave Seattle (and the classroom) a full day early for tonight’s Thursday night showdown with Colorado, site of one of UW’s three losses all last season. They then head to Salt Lake City, where both UCLA and USC were upset last week. The Huskies’ match against Utah will be Saturday night, carried only via webstream (www.UtahUtes.com) provided by the Utah sports information office. A Utah spokesman says Jon Oglesby will provide live commentary (with multiple cameras this year,) but wasn't sure yet whether the running score would be posted on screen.
- Stanford’s showdown with UCLA comes just 24 hours after it played (and defeated) USC, also in LA. The third-place Bruins may have the last best chance to hand #1 Stanford its first loss of the season before the Cardinal face undefeated #2 Washington in two weeks. Even so, the Cardinal @ Bruins match will only be available via UCLA’s livestream.
- Likewise, the Oregon at Arizona match—two teams tied with UCLA for third place—is a great Friday night matchup moved back to Thursday to accommodate men’s basketball.
- Washington State and Oregon State each had to leave Pullman and Corvallis (and the classroom) a full day early for tonight’s Thursday matches at Utah (WSU) and Arizona (OSU.) The Cougars must stay in the Rocky Mountains—and the Beavers in the desert—into Sunday, when WSU faces Colorado and OSU meets Arizona State at 11AM that day. Sunday matches—particularly in the morning—have been an attendance disaster this season.
Actually, it could have been worse. During the first week of men’s nonconference basketball in 2012, the Pac-12 Network decided not to televise Stanford’s match at UCLA—the first sporting event in exhaustively-renovated Pauley Pavilion, featuring two of volleyball’s elites. Even more embarrassing, the Network skipped what was likely the best conference volleyball match of the past five seasons, when Washington fought off 14 match points in a heart-stopping 3-2 win over Oregon. The Ducks would go on to the Final Four that season, led by 2012 National Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma. Washington would go on to the Final Four the next season, led by 2013 National Player of the Year Krista Vansant.
And so, if sports fans would rather watch nonconference games against overmatched competition instead of head-to-head conference clashes between some of the best teams in the nation, is that the fault of the Pac-12 Network or of volleyball fans?