Tragedies Offer Wake Up Call To 1:00 Kickoffs

The tragic heat related deaths this past month and a half have underscored the real danger that does exist when you mix heavy activity with heat. It also reaffirms my belief that scheduling afternoon football in Clemson is the wrong thing to do.

On April 15th I wrote an article here called Uncommon Sense, which took the time to pick apart every rational reason to willingly schedule afternoon football games during the month of September. I am not here to fight television and all of the financial benefits it brings to the University. But, when a Clemson game in September is not televised and Clemson has 100% authority to schedule starting times, I cannot understand the rational of starting the games at 1:00 in the searing heat.

Clemson will play Central Florida and Wofford, both non-televised games that Clemson has set the time for, at 1:00 the first two weeks of the season.

Obviously the Athletic Administration, headed by Bobby Robinson, feels that 1:00 games are in the best interest of Clemson. How they come to that conclusion is beyond me, and I don't think they have relayed why they chose those starting times to the fans.

By now, everyone is familiar with the tragic deaths of Florida State's DeVaughn Darling, Florida's Eraste Autin, and Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer…all attributed to a heat stroke while participating in workouts in preparation for the upcoming football season. In addition, Northwestern University's Rashidi Wheeler collapsed and died with asthma related complications, which may or may not have been agitated by the heat. These tragedies underscore the insanity of subjecting players, and fans, to the stifling summer heat.

Wait a minute, you say. These deaths were all athletes who were training for the upcoming football season, not actually playing in game-like situations. During a regular game, the pace and flow demanded by the athletes is far less demanding and, therefore, less dangerous.

Hard to argue that point on it's simple merit. Although the game of college football has become much more fast paced, it is far less strenuous on the athlete to participate in a game than it is during a rough practice. So what happens when an athlete suffers a similar fate on a hot Saturday afternoon during a nationally televised game? Notice I used the words when, not if. Will we rethink the way in which we schedule games AFTER we have a tragedy?

And what about the fans? Is Clemson endangering the lives of the very people that love the University by scheduling games at 1:00? No way, you say. Sitting in the bleachers watching football in 95-degree heat is nothing compared to actually working out in that very heat.

For most people, sitting in the heat, if hydrated, is not a big deal. We do it while cutting grass, while boating on the lake, and while playing golf. But, what about the elderly that attend the games in Clemson? I don't think that it is a stretch to say that for some older fans, the danger of sitting in the bleachers in 95-degree heat is equitable to a fit player working out in the heat. The dangers can, in some cases, be just as great to those watching the games.

After my article in April was posted, I received 78 e-mails regarding starting times at 1:00. Of those 78 e-mails, 73 were in support for playing night games in early September in Clemson. Only 5 e-mails (roughly 6%) were sent to me in support of the 1:00 games. I am not suggesting my poll is a completely accurate assessment of Clemson fan's opinions, but the data was quite overwhelmingly in support of night games.

Look, I am not trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. In addition, I am not using the tragic deaths as a bully pulpit to make my point about the need to schedule games in the evening during September.

And, most of all, I am not trying to overhaul the way college athletics is run. Remember, I understand that television rules the roost of college athletics and I am not suggesting overhauling all of college football by suggesting there should not be day games in September at any school.

I am talking about Clemson University. I am talking about those one or two games yearly that are not picked up by television. I am talking about those few games that Clemson actually has control over when they start the game. I am talking about easing the suffering of the fans by playing a game or two under the lights instead of the baking sun of mid-afternoon.

I think Clemson University and Bobby Robinson owe Clemson fans a statement as to why they feel the need to schedule games in the afternoon. They owe us, at the very least, a rational to the way they operate. And, if they say they are scheduling the games in the afternoon because the majority of fans don't want night games, then let us see those polls. Let's put some names and faces to those statistics. Because, I guarantee you, the majority of Clemson fans don't want to suffer in the heat.

It seems such a sensible thing to do. And, let's hope that we don't have to learn our lessons the hard way with losses to our players and/or fans. Being proactive is 1000 times better than reacting to a tragedy. Just ask FSU, Florida, Minnesota, and Northwestern.

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