Last Saturday's sweater weather made it ideal for college football, so my son and I hopped in the car and headed up to UW-Oshkosh to see the Titans take on UW-Whitewater, a clash between the top two teams in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Whitewater is once again the top-ranked Division III team in the country and looking to "three-peat" as national champs. But Oshkosh is a program on the rise, and Whitewater was lucky to escape Titan Stadium with a three-point victory.
A few hours later, we were back in Madison in plenty of time to tune in one of Wisconsin's four night games of the 2011 season, the most among Big Ten teams. These 7 p.m. kickoffs are ideal for those who want to check out small-college football in person or dent the couch for an all-day buffet of pigskin. They're also increasingly attractive to network executives trying to attract viewers on what's considered the slowest TV night of the week.
Earlier this week, USA Today reported that CBS made deals with ESPN/ABC and NBC in order to broadcast the highly anticipated Nov. 5 game between top-ranked Louisiana State and second-ranked Alabama in prime time. That game was guaranteed to attract a huge audience in its original afternoon timeslot, but CBS has noticed ABC's success with Saturday night games and wants in on the action.
While afternoon games have no problem attracting hardcore fans, night games add casual fans to the mix, which opens up more advertising opportunities. And with the broadcasts often featuring slick footage from around campus, coaches and school administrators embrace the attention. No word yet on whether more night games means higher attendance at Division III games.