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Penn State Football: Thursday Night Football? Probably Not For Nittany Lions

by on May 07, 2015 4:15 PM

ALTOONA- As Penn State continues to race forward through the process of modernizing the football program the question remains as to what exactly "modern" looks like.

Is it uniforms? Is it how the team acts and the coaches portray themselves in public? Is it simply updating technology?

The answer is ultimately a lot more complex than any one of those areas. So far, under James Franklin one of the hottest phrases has been "best practice", what are other programs doing that Penn State can do? What are the best solutions to any given problem and how can they be used to improve the program. 

As at least one person pointed out on Thursday in Altoona, Thursday night football is a growing trend in college football. If nothing else it is far less rare than it once was. Multiple Thursday night games can be found on TV during the season. If Penn State is looking for exposure, you'd be hard pressed to find a better moment than when you're one of only a few teams playing that day. Even casual fans might tune in simply because it's on.

For Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour, the idea of playing on Thursday night has some obvious appeal, but there are a lot of hurdles overcome to make it worth the effort.

"Obviously, college football has kind of taken over Thursday night," Barbour said. "But I'm not sure what direction that is going toward overall. Thursday night would be really, really difficult in Happy Valley. That's where I think as athletic directors we have to be very very careful in soliciting TV money and what control and what aspects are we giving up because of that? We can't take the TV money and completely forget the fans. Because then you're trading dollars."

While Thursday night may be out of the question at least for any immediate plans, the entire idea of when a game kicks off has always been a sticking point for Penn State fans. For a fan base that largely commutes from out of town, a noon kick can pose issues as much as an 8 p.m. kick. That's something Barbour is aware of, but with TV controlling much of the scheduling it's something she can't do a whole lot about in the long run.

"The interesting thing about game times on Saturday, is that depending on who you talk to, fans are actually all over the board on that," Barbour noted. "Even with our location and some of our challenges or logistics of getting to State College, you'll find some that find 12 o'clock to be a challenge or maybe that 8 o'clock is too late."

"The other thing about a primetime game is the exposure you get nationally," Barbour added. "So like everything else there is a balance here. As an athletic director I have to consider strongly our fans and those who travel to State College. But there is also this other aspect about nationally exposure and coverage."

So of all the changes that have come to Penn State football the past few years, at least some things are staying the same. There won't be football on Thursdays and chances are at least a few games are going to be a challenge for fans to get to.

Judging by the fact Penn State has remained in the Top 5 of annual attendance in recent years it's hard to imagine anything really keeping fans from getting to town on Saturdays.


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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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