ESPN elected to show the Oregon-Washington game next month and chose a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The late time slot is considered the best by the network, but according to a letter sent out by UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens it turns out many commuting Duck fans don’t agree.
ESPN is no stranger to Eugene. It’s come to town for six college Gameday shows and already broadcast two games at Autzen this season. And with the Ducks’ increasing success, the team’s national popularity is thriving along with its TV popularity.
“Three of their top 10 games last season during the regular season featured the Ducks because people watch us,” said UO Athletics spokesman Craig Pintens.
But some fans, especially the ones who travel hours to Autzen each weekend, don’t like the late kickoff time.
“They travel from Northern California, from the Bend area, from Portland, and for them a 7:30 game is not preferable. They prefer an afternoon game so they can drive back at night,” Pintens said.
“I think the later starts are hard for fans because it definitely means they’re usually not getting back until like midnight,” said Sarah Smith, Holiday Inn Express General Manager.
Staff at the Holiday Inn Express in Eugene say they hear complaints from Duck fans when kickoffs are later.
Night games usually mean spending that much more money to reserve a room Saturday night. And with pricier tickets this season, many fans are complaining that being a Duck fan is becoming a pretty expensive hobby, but others would argue this is the price of success.
“We’ve been a very successful program, and when you’re a successful program the spotlight is very bright, and for us that bright spotlight means kicking off at night,” Pintens said.
The athletic department says it lobbied with ESPN and the Pac-12 to get earlier start times, per fans’ requests, but considering the networks pay a combined price tag of $225 million a year to air Pac-12 football games, they get the final say.