Daily Chronicle sports editor Ross Jacobson and sports reporter Steve Nitz spend their days covering the area’s sports scene. Occasionally, they give their viewpoints on those local sports. In this installment of their Take 2 column, they discuss midweek games in the Mid-American Conference.
Nitz: Midweek games have been a constant in the Mid-American Conference for roughly 10 seasons, and it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon.
So, are you a fan of playing games on Tuesday and Wednesday or are you a traditionalist who would rather see schools like Northern Illinois stick to a Saturday schedule?
Jacobson: As a college football fan, I love it. #MACtion is perfect for the midweek primetime slot when fall sports fans are dying for their football fix after the weekend.
If I’m part of NIU’s administration, I’d continue with the midweek games, but they have to be careful about striking the right balance. The four midweek games they played in 2008 were too much. Just as NIU can’t play every marquee opponent at Soldier Field, the athletic office needs to consider the schedules of its alumni base and current students.
Nitz: I think two or three midweek games are perfectly fine. At most, you have two home midweek games that way. The bottom line is, this is the only way the MAC is going to get consistent time on national TV. The league isn’t getting on ESPN on a Saturday. Even Thursdays are reserved for the power conferences, and now you’re competing with the NFL, too.
On a Wednesday night, the only thing the MAC is competing with are regular-season NBA and NHL games. Football is king in this country and people want more of it.
Jacobson: Agreed, there is no such thing as too much football in America right now. But that holds true mainly for TV audiences rather than in-stadium attendance. As we’ve shown, midweek games tend to be associated with smaller crowds, and home-field advantage is actually worth something in college football.
NIU has won its past 24 games at Huskie Stadium, but to some extent the midweek games might not be allowing NIU to take full advantage of its home atmosphere. The Toledo-NIU game last year would’ve been a sellout with good weather on a Saturday. Instead only 18,000 made it in. We’ll see if the Ball State game Wednesday plays out the same way. That’s a game where NIU needs a sellout more than any other.
Nitz: I definitely think the attendance is an issue. The atmosphere just isn’t the same on a weeknight, and it’s unfortunate when not as many people are able to head out. However, there’s a lot more NIU fans who are able to watch these games, and that’s important, too.
You mentioned the home-field advantage, but think of it this way: Toledo’s home-field advantage won’t be as big when the Huskies visit the Glass Bowl on, Nov. 20.
I think the midweek games have been a big positive for the conference, but it’s a situation where there are going to be trade-offs.