It is stupid hot in Alabama in September during the day ... so let's play football!
There are college football teams that are so desperate to play on television that they will do *anything* to get on the air.
Want us to play at 1 a.m. on Friday morning if it means a slot on The Ocho? We’ll be there!
Want us to play in Saskatchewan as the back end of the annual Moose Festival so we can get on Fox Sports 12? Lace ’em up!
Gimmicks gonna gimmick, and that’s why there’s blue turf in Boise, red turf at Eastern Washington and swank Vegas-styled numbers on the turf at UNLV.
And then there are the elite schools, the Notre Dames of the world. They kindly inform television when they feel like playing and who they’re going to face. And NBC will happily shut up and televise it. Ditto with Texas, which somehow extorted an entire network out of ESPN — only to watch Longhorn football lose Vince Young to the NFL and the program swoon back into the middle class while still having the Longhorn Network breathlessly adore their every move.
By any and all measures, Alabama football should be where Notre Dame and Texas are: a true legacy program with the added advantage of actually winning around 13.5 games every season.
But Alabama apparently doesn’t have the pull that Notre Dame has. Alabama doesn’t have stroke like Texas. Instead, Alabama has fans stroking out in the concourses at Bryant-Denny Stadium while playing in the middle of the afternoon in September.
Here is a news flash for those reading that are unaware of the conditions in the Deep South during this time of year: It is hot. Very hot. Stifling hot. Air so heavy it feels like it is stalking you hot. Slap your momma for a chunk of ice hot.
Apparently, though, the fine folks in Birmingham at the offices of the Southeastern Conference don’t live in the same part of the Deep South as Tuscaloosa — even though it is kinda just down the road. Because for the 2nd time in 3 weeks, the Crimson Tide — you know, the legacy program in the SEC — will be forced to play a home game in September during the middle of the afternoon.
The SEC didn’t get the memo that this might not be such a bright idea after hundreds of fans were treated for heat-related issues during Alabama’s 62-10 victory over New Mexico State last week — a game that kicked off at 3 pm CT with a temperature officially at 94 degrees but unofficially at “Hell’s waiting room.”
So despite fans dropping like sweaty flies all afternoon long, the SEC saw it fit Monday to announce the kickoff for the Sept. 21 game against Southern Miss for … wait for it … 11 a.m.!
Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne, who basically threw up his hands and wondered aloud how LSU can play night game after night game at home but he can’t get a single after-dark kickoff when it is forecast to be 138 degrees worth of heat index.
“We are disappointed that our game against Southern Miss has been selected as a daytime kickoff at home,” said Byrne in a joint news release with UA President Stuart R. Bell. “We realize we’ve played more nonconference day games at home in September than any other SEC team since 2014. There have been a number of conversations with our conference office, and they also recognize the challenges these kick times present for our student-athletes and fans.”
Challenges is an understatement. Byrne and Alabama tried the best they could to make the concrete baking dish that is Bryant-Denny Stadium hospitable Saturday, trucking in water misters galore and installing water refill stations throughout the concourses. But the combination of a lackluster opponent in New Mexico State and it feeling like you’re a fried egg under the Alabama sun meant Bryant-Denny was half-empty by halftime.
“I know it was a difficult day for our fans because of the circumstances surrounding the weather,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. “I’d like to thank the fans for supporting the team. A lot of people were hanging in there to support the team. I think the players really appreciated it. Hopefully our administration will continue to work to try to play some of these games at different times.”
Since the new TV deal and the SEC Network debuted in 2014, AL.com reported, Alabama has played 4 September evening/night games in Bryant-Denny Stadium. They include a 2014 game with Southern Miss that kicked off at 5 p.m., Colorado State’s 2017 visit (6 p.m.) and 2 visits from Ole Miss in 2015 and 2017 that began after 8. The Southern Miss game will be the 4th in that span kicking at 11 a.m. while 8 started between 2:30 and 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, LSU seemingly plays every home game at night. The Tigers kicked off their home opener vs. Georgia Southern at 6:30 pm, and return home Saturday to face Northwestern State at 6:30 pm.
Something doesn’t seem right about all this, and Alabama is deservedly, ahem, hot over it. Not that the Tide will likely get a switched time for the Southern Miss game, but the issue is one that typically only gets talked about behind closed doors. Not anymore. Thanks to Byrne and Alabama, TV times are now discussed under the bright, sunny, hot skies.