By Dave Wischnowsky–
The NCAA is hypocritical. It’s frustrating. And it’s fraught more inconsistencies than Alfonso Soriano’s swing. Or Carlos Zambrano’s head.
But the NCAA isn’t dumb.
No, there’s a reason why college football’s governing body saw fit to allow Terrelle Pryor and his Paint Crew to play in January’s Sugar Bowl, even though the Ohio State standouts can’t play in their first five games this fall.
And there’s a reason why the NCAA told Auburn’s Cam Newton that he could line up under center during the 2011 BCS Championship Game, even though his school might have to vacate its precious national title some day down the line.
Yes, there were reasons for all of that. And they’re called TV ratings, something that the NCAA loves so dearly that it appears to be willing to do pretty much whatever necessary to attract them – even if that means cutting a few corners here and there.
And, well, here. And, um, there.
But, come this fall – if the NFL indeed is forced to scrap part or all of its 2011 schedule due to the league’s ongoing labor dispute – the NCAA won’t have to sacrifice ethics to reel in additional eyeballs (and money) for its football games.
Rather, it would only need to sacrifice part of its normal schedule by playing some games on Sundays to fill the TV time slots that normally are reserved for the NFL.
This week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott leaked word that his newly expanded conference is already pondering the possibility of taking advantage an NFL lockout by moving some of its games to Sundays.
“We certainly are monitoring the situation,” Scott told Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com. “We have no plans in place at this time, but you want to be prepared and consider all options. Still, these labor situations have a way of getting done the closer they get to a critical situation.”
If the NFL season does end up being canceled, don’t be surprised if the NCAA bigfoots its way into the entire situation and works with all the BCS conferences to provide Sunday TV programming to sate a football-starved nation – and, of course, stuff its own coffers with cash.
Making such moves wouldn’t be simple, of course. I’m guessing that the NFL likely would attempt to apply political pressure on the TV networks to stop the NCAA from creeping in on its Sunday turf.
To that point, Sean McManus, president of CBS News and CBS Sports, recently said: “We know the parameters if there is a lockout. We understand our obligations. We haven’t made any alternate programming plans right now.
“When presented with whatever scenario develops, we will adjust. But right now, we’re not making any contingency plans or any thoughts of next season without football. We’re hoping that in early September, we’re once again carrying the NFL on CBS.”
Now, of course, McManus is going say that right now with enough time for the NFL to get its act together. But if the league is unable to provide a schedule to fill out Sunday TV lineups this fall, how could you fault the networks for looking elsewhere for pigskin programming?
For marketing purposes, the NCAA would be wise to work with TV to shuffle some marquee matchups to Sundays and grow its brand. After all, if watching a Chicago Bears game isn’t an option, are you telling me you that wouldn’t tune in, say, Alabama at Penn State on Sunday, Sept. 11, or Oklahoma at Florida State on Sunday, Sept. 18, or, perhaps, Nebraska at Wisconsin on Sunday, Oct. 2?
I certainly would. In a heartbeat.
Flipping a few high-profile games from Saturday afternoons to Sundays wouldn’t be any more odd than scheduling weeknight contests, which has become a common practice in recent years.
And with a country conditioned to spend its autumn Sundays watching football, such an play call would be a savvy one for the NCAA, an organization that might often like to play ignorant.
But never plays dumb.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.