Dear Falcon Supporters,
I wanted to drop you a quick note about home kickoff times for football and the frustration that comes with 8:15p.m. kickoff times. If given the choice, USAFA Athletics would have every home game in Falcon Stadium kickoff at noon or 1p.m. to maximize the fan engagement experience and remain synched with our cadet-athletes’ academic and military schedules. You have my assurance that when given the opportunity to select kickoff times, those are the times we’ll select.
Kickoff times are determined by television networks through their agreements with the Mountain West Conference. In the case of ESPN, the contract affords the option to select the network (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3) and kickoff time. If the game is to be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU the network selects the kickoff time. This process played out for our recent San Jose State game and our upcoming contest against the Cowboys from Wyoming. If the game is on ESPN3 (video stream) the host institution selects the time. If we have an ESPN3 broadcast this season we will select a 1p.m. kickoff.
This is a common occurrence with conference television packages and our television partners work hard to pick games that will have the furthest reach and draw the highest ratings. Air Force is a national brand and the demand is high! It’s not a slight to our conference that the networks select these times. This is true for every conference. The Ole Miss-Alabama game a few weeks ago started at nearly 9p.m. local time and ended after 12:30a.m.
The second important piece of this puzzle is the time games are announced. ESPN holds a clause that it can select games broadcast with a 12-day window. The Wyoming game time was selected within this window, as will all our remaining home games because ESPN Networks owns the rights. The 12-day game selection window affords the network the ability to select games they feel the nation most wants to see. Again, this is true of every conference nationally. The Utah-Oregon game this past weekend was actually on a six-day window and was not selected until the Monday of game week.
Fan frustration with late and variable kickoff times in Falcon Stadium is certainly understandable. And while we may not agree with the methodology, it is the way collegiate athletics currently operates. The United States Air Force Academy’s membership in the Mountain West Conference is extremely important to our institution for branding, exposure and revenue. The Mountain West is currently the best fit for our football, basketball, volleyball, women’s soccer, and other programs; as a founding member we support the conference and our television partners. Additionally, you should know that we continue to provide feedback and maintain dialogue with the conference leadership and our television partners about these issues.
Thank you for your support. I hope this explanation gives you, our most loyal Falcon Athletics fans, a better understanding of the football scheduling process. No matter what time the football is teed up for kickoff, I assure you that our cadet-athletes will show up ready to play and proud to represent our institution with the outstanding commitment, energy, and tenacity that is the hallmark of an Air Force Academy Athletic Team. I ask that you show your appreciation by supporting them with your attendance. Corey and I look forward to seeing you at all of our upcoming Fightin’ Falcon home contests, even if they start a little later (or earlier) than we prefer!