There have been some complaints recently regarding the Tennessee Volunteers season opener this Friday night in Atlanta. These complaints will likely fall upon deaf ears, but they're coming from more than just one area. Football fans in general are a bit upset that college football has chosen a Friday night to bring the curtain up on the 2012 season. The noise is being stirred a bit by fans of high school, college and pro football. They are saying that college football should stay out of the Friday night lights. College football should be played on Saturdays in the fall, with NFL games played on Sundays. Some real purists have even said the NFL doesn't need to be played on Monday nights either, but that has nothing to do with this scenario. Several games in our area have been moved to Thursday, but most games in Hamilton County will be played on Friday night.
There is one central villain in all of this; television. NFL games were scheduled on Monday nights because of television many years ago. And with the recent big money contracts signed by the major conferences with ESPN, it's little wonder the college football season will begin on a Friday in 2012. Moving game dates and times for television is nothing new, however, it seems to be happening more and more.
Even high school games have been moved for television in some states with bigger markets. Last Saturday for instance, ESPN televised several high school games, with a doubleheader played at the Georgia Dome, even though if the college season was in full force, there would have been no Saturday prep football. In Knoxville Tennessee, one of the highest rated local television shows is a special Thursday night edition of high school football. It's called, "Rivalry Thursday" with some of upper east Tennessee's biggest rivalries being renewed on a very large Thursday night stage. What do the coaches and school administrators think of "Rivalry Thursdays"? They love it, as crowds haven't dropped off a bit. In fact, executive producer Mark Packer thinks all the extra "commotion" going on in the stadium has helped create more and more interest. That extra "commotion" involves check presentations to each school as Packer definitely pays his way. There was an effort to bring "Rivalry Thursdays" to the Chattanooga area a couple of years ago, but not enough sponsors could be found to fund the expensive project.
Chattanooga does have a high school football "Game of The Week" but it's televised on the traditional "Sacred Friday" on WTVC's ThisTV. I strongly believe a Thursday night match-up would go over big in our area, but if high schools play on Thursday nights, it interferes with middle school games. Oh well......you can't please everybody.
Seriously, college football needs to stay away from Friday nights. The last time Tennessee played on a Friday, was in 1939 when George "Bad News" Cafego was the Vols' All-American tailback. Interestingly enough, their opponent that year was North Carolina State; their opponent Friday night in the Georgia Dome. You see, high school football is the game that is totally pure. As I have stated before, playing high school football on Friday nights is the last chance most young men will ever have to play this wonderful game. They don't play for money, just pride; pride in themselves, their team, and their community. When the ultra-talented players get to the college or professional level, it becomes a big business; one that causes many games to be moved to another day and time.
I have a long-time friend who is an executive with ESPN's college sports division. I love him, but he has and always will be about money. Money drives too many things in our society today. Maybe it's time we all stepped back and make Fridays a "sacred' night for high school football. A lot of proud young men will appreciate it.
Randy Smith email@example.com
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).