Eight Days A Week

Syracuse starts a slate of four non-Saturday games for WVU, the most ever on a single season's schedule.

Fans gripe, coaches complain. But as the Big East restructures and the overwhelming athletic department costs soar, television is a near-vital income addition for any major program.

The Mountaineers televison money and exposure more than makes up for monies lost if 5,000 fewer fans show on a Wednesday. The 2005 schedule could especially be a test, as WVU finishes with three straight non-Saturday games, two at home and one -- against rival Pitt -- on Thanksgiving night.

That might mean fewer fans, but it will mean more revenue and give West Virginia a recruiting advantage unknown when it was in the mix of Saturday games.

"The reason we have been able to recruit well in our last three classes is because some of our big games have been on national TV," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We are the only game on sometimes, and recruits see that."

Indeed, college football is so all-consuming in America that it tops nearly everything else on a consistent basis. But television has caused missed classes -- both for players and students as the latter skips out on game days and often the day after -- and schedules that have no flow.

"It's a hassle. I think anybody would rather get in a groove and play every Saturday at 1:00 p.m.," Rodriguez said. "That way you establish a routine. But it's also exciting to be on national television. It gets great exposure. We will have to play Wednesday night games or Thursday games. That's the state of college football."

It's also the state of the Big East, clearly the weakest of the Bowl Championship Series conferences. But with the BCS adding two additional berths after the current contract expires, it will be difficult to argue the Big East champion does not deserve an automatic bid.

Thus, the conference could have put itself in the best possible position. It keeps the BCS, gets added revenue for television games, and showcases itself as the game of the night, not getting lost in the shuffle of 20-plus televised weekend games.

"When you renegotiate the Big East contract, we need exposure for the league," Rodriguez said. "Everybody is going to have to play those games. And when you have a chance to play on national TV, you have to take it."

Rodriguez said he does not want to play on Fridays because it conflicts with high school football. Many conferences and teams are stating the same thing, but would be hard-pressed to stray from the offered monies if networks decide to go with Friday collegiate football.

"This is the first time I have ever played on Sunday, so I'll tell you later how that goes," Rodriguez said. "You're usually not conflicting on a Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday. But Friday should be left to high schools. It's great exposure, though."

The Syracuse game marks WVU's first Sunday road game in program history.



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