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Dear Powers That Be: Who the hell are you and what have you done to WSU's schedule?

THERE'S BEEN SOME ANGST in crimson cyberspace this week with Washington State embarking Saturday on the first of two straight night games at UCLA (7:45 p.m., ESPN). But the reality is WSU has found itself in a wholly unfamiliar situation this season when it comes to kickoff times and scheduling.

WSU has long been the whipping boy for crummy scheduling by the conference and TV networks, stretching well back into its Pac-10 days. But this season? It's been as good as it gets.

Washington State is tied with two other Pac-12 schools for the fewest late starts. With WSU's start times known for the final three games, at worst they'll finish the regular season tied in that respect in the Pac-12.

Who the hell are you and what have you done to WSU's schedule?

Saturday night's tilt at UCLA will be only WSU's second game all season to start at 7 p.m. or later. WSU didn't even have a 7 p.m. kickoff this season until Week Eight, against Stanford. The home finale vs. Colorado on Nov. 21 will be its third -- and last -- of 12 regular season games. (The Apple Cup in Seattle is slated for either 12:30 pm or 1 p.m. on FS-1).

Indeed, only Cal and OSU have a shot to match WSU at the end of the regular season for most afternoon games (Cal's start times against Stanford and ASU have yet to be announced, OSU's finale against UO is still to be determined).

Last year, WSU had three 7 p.m. or later starts just in its first four games alone. In 2013, the Cougs played half their schedule -- six games -- with evening kickoffs of 7 p.m. or later.

The culprit: There's just so much more money now at stake.

WSU hasn't been in the upper half of the Pac-12 standings for a long time and its TV market is (news flash!) less than that of say, the Los Angeles schools. The networks naturally want to maximize their massive investment in the Pac-12 TV contract. And ESPN, Fox and the Pac-12 Networks draw the most viewers for night games.

But WSU also has just had some things go their way here in 2015 that they haven't in previous years. You would think Colorado too, having not posting a winning season in 10 years and Denver (35 miles from Boulder) a lesser TV market than that of LA, San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle, might have seen similar start times. But they've had a good number of late kickoffs.

Stanford and UCLA have objected loudly this season, by the way.  And they should.  Stanford has already had six games that kicked off at 7 p.m. or later, with two more yet to be determined. UCLA has had four late games, with matchups vs. Utah and USC yet to be scheduled.

At the same time, it's hard to feel much sympathy if you're a Cougar fan. Welcome to our world. Didn't hear you complaining 'lo these many years when you were getting the afternoon games and WSU was staying up late. And hey Jim Mora, to paraphrase the late great Leon Bender: UCLA must also be where coaches go to get soft.

Meanwhile, Cougar fans should enjoy these last three regular season games and hell, embrace the final two night games too. For WSU and its fans, it's been as good as it gets.

PAC-12: MOST STARTS AT 7 PM OR LATER
Arizona: 8
ASU: 6
Stanford: 6
Colorado: 6
USC: 5
Utah: 5
UW: 4
Oregon: 4
UCLA: 4
Cal: 3
OSU: 3
WSU: 3

Note: ASU and Arizona deliberately schedule more night games due to the heat, so their numbers will always be higher. Unlike the Cougs, many teams below still have 1-2 start times to be determined.


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