The B1G today announced the “prime time” games for the 2012 football season. As I perused the list I couldn’t help but notice that Purdue isn’t mentioned. Not once. Not even as an opponent at an away game. By comparison IU has three night games (granted two are Ball State and Indiana State). I’m not going to sit here and tell you that lights are the end all and be all for Purdue football. They don’t NEED lights per say. Lights don’t make the team better and lights won’t necessarily bring in more fans or bring later start times, but varying the time every now and then couldn’t hurt. I know these days times are dictated by TV coverage which is vastly important for recruiting and national exposure. Purdue has been stuck in the doldrums of the 12:00 game for years now. For me personally it’s not that big of a deal. I live in the same time zone and live just about an hour away from the stadium. For me it means I simply get to sleep in less during home game Saturdays and I’m okay with that. I love Purdue football and will gladly sacrifice a few hours of sleep in order to watch my favorite team in person each and every Saturday. That being said not all fans are like me.
For instance, my fiancee’s family lives in the central time zone which is great when we go visit them because I magically gain an hour of time. The road home though is killer because it turns a two hour drive into a three hour drive. The same thing is true for Purdue fans from “the region” or Chicago hoping to come to a game some Saturday. The drive from Chicago to Ross-Ade is around 2.5 hours if everything goes right. Then add in an extra hour for the time change and you’re sitting at a 3.5 hour trip if things go great. Add in a half hour of traffic/bathroom breaks/detours and your looking at a 4 hour trip to get to the game. Now most fans want to get to the game a little early, find a place to park, and probably grab a bite to eat. Let’s assume they want to arrive an hour before kickoff. That means the 4 hour trip has become a 5 hour trip at the very least. In order to get to a 12:00 kickoff someone living in the Chicago area has to leave at 7:00 AM if they want to make it right at kickoff but at 6:00 AM if they’d like a little time to spare. I don’t know about you but that would suck. It’s not forcing these customers away but it does make it difficult for them to take in the game day experience. People like myself have no room to complain but those who face travel challenges like those above have a legitimate gripe.
The question is though how many of those fans would come to games if they were later in the day. What if they kicked off at 3:30? How about 4:00 like the Purdue vs. Michigan game will? I understand that on the opposite side of the equation for the early games are late night kickoffs that cause people to drive home incredibly late and even not get home till the next day. You can’t please everyone but that’s basically my point. The effect of lights on attendance would be negligible at best. It would be much more convenient for a lot of people but would it suddenly fill the stadium? I think not. Another thing to think about is if having lights would even get Purdue the later kickoffs. It certainly seems to be a factor in deciding game times regardless of what you read. How else do you explain IU football having three night games? I’m not sugar coating it when I say they are terrible. Every now and then they grab a win but they are just consistently and historically a bad program. Then they redid their stadium and suddenly they get a few night games a year. It appears that the administration has made it a point of emphasis to press for night games hoping the novelty will attract more fans. I know I watched more IU football in these last couple years simply because they were the only B1G game on at the time some nights.
So where exactly did we get to here? Probably nowhere. There is no right answer to the question of does Purdue need lights. It would certainly seem to help them get the more desirable (to me anyway) afternoon or evening the occasional evening kickoffs. Night games against good opponents of course generate buzz and more ticket sales and that is something Purdue desperately needs. I don’t think Purdue would benefit by having say the Eastern Kentucky game kickoff at 8:00. It’s just a gimmick at that point and I think people understand that. As long as Purdue doesn’t have lights though there will be people complaining about it. I’m not sure of the cost for lights at Ross-Ade but I remember reading it’s somewhere around $1.5-$2.0. Someone can correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. That seems like a small investment if you can prove that over time the late night starts and late afternoon starts bring in bigger crowds. Until you can prove that point though you’ll have a hard time getting that money away from the justifiably tight fisted Morgan Burke.