ESPN to guarantee games for UW

SEATTLE - While Monday's big news on campus was that Washington's Nov. 13th game with UCLA was going to be moved to Thursday Nov. 18 to accommodate a national television audience via ESPN, the giant sports and entertainment mogul also promised the Huskies even more exposure for their football program.

In short, ESPN has promised Washington so many television 'units' - six, to be exact - that will translate into games on either ESPN or ABC for the 2010 season. Besides the UCLA game, they have also guaranteed television for the Huskies' game at USC on October 2nd and the Nebraska game at Husky Stadium September 18th.

These 'units' are broken down by national and regional telecasts. Essentially, any national game going through ABC - national meaning 51 percent or more of the country watching that game - is worth two units. Any other game - whether it's a regional game on ABC or a national game on ESPN or its cable affiliates, is worth one unit. Right now they are only at one unit with the Thursday UCLA game on ESPN, but they could be as high as five right now if the USC and Nebraska games are picked up nationally on ABC. Either way, ESPN has promised at least one more game - and possibly as many as three, depending on the details of the USC and Nebraska games - for the Huskies, and that means big exposure to a program trying to work its way back up to the top.

"Every opportunity we get to get the national exposure that ESPN can provide, is huge from the standpoint of our current football team and the likes of Jake Locker, to the potential prospects and guys that are looking at our program as one they are thinking about attending," UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said. "And also the opportunity for our fans, our community and our university, to get behind this football team one more time in that fashion, is really exciting."

Dave Brown, Vice President of Programming at ESPN, and the man responsible for coming to Washington with the idea of the Thursday game, said the exposure gained by moving the UCLA game will be tremendous for the Huskies. For starters, it's the only college game publicized heavily on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Thursday game also gets more pre-game and post-game editorials during the week, adding to the hype.

"Husky Stadium has been home to so many great telecasts over the years," Brown said. "There few better settings than Husky Stadium for college football, and that's why we're really excited to bring that to Thursday night for the first time."

Sarkisian has played and coached in Thursday night games before. "It's got the feel of significance," he said of those games. "There's a definite excitement in the air. The buildup to the game, starting on Monday Nigh Football, those types of games are ones kids are excited to be a part of."

The game will be the first non-weekend game at Husky Stadium in over 70 years, so the logistics are critical to pulling off an event of this magnitude. "We want to be very clear that this is going to be a tough call on a lot of people," UW Athletic Director Scott Woodward said. "We are going to strain a lot of our partners and friends in Upper Campus and at the Health Center with parking. We're going to inconvenience them a tad. But I think it's all worth it with the great amount of exposure that we're getting and we're bringing to this University."

He added that the school is putting together a comprehensive plan for dealing with traffic and parking that day that utilizes private bussing, as well as the thought of fans trying to get out to Husky Stadium as early as possible to avoid congestion. "If we plan well, tailgating should be accommodated and fun," he said.

Woodward is hopeful that, with the numbers generated for this game - as well as the other Pac-10 games played on Thursday throughout the season - it will help the Pac-10's standing with ESPN when it comes to the negotiating table at the end of the season. "The higher the ratings, the better we are in negotiations with him," he said, nodding to Brown.

The Pac-10 is hosting three Thursday night games in 2010 - UCLA/Oregon October 21st and Arizona State/Arizona December 2nd are the other two.

Another benefit to moving the UCLA game is now the Huskies get 11 days before the game and nine more days before they travel to California. "In a sense we took one entire bye and split it in half," Sarkisian said.

And if things go well with Thursday night, the Huskies are hopeful a visit from the ESPN 'Game Day' crew may not be far behind. "The bottom line with Game Day, we have to do our part," Sarkisian said, matter-of-factly. "If you want Game Day to come, you've got to win."

For Brown's part, ESPN would love to host a Game Day in Seattle if the fates allow. He got nothing but glowing comments from the basketball 'Game Day' crew when they were in Seattle for Washington's conference win over UCLA last February. But for now, he's thrilled to bring Husky Stadium to a Thursday night national audience. The announcing crew will be the same one that has been doing ESPN's Thursday night games for the past couple of seasons - Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer and sideline reporter Erin Andrews.

"Normally we don't like the cameras to shake because we don't like to disrupt what the viewer is seeing at home," he said. "But in this case, that night I'm sure the cameras will be shaking like crazy." Top Stories