BY Art Thiel 02:16PM 10/02/2017

Thiel: Huskies’ Petersen goes after late starts

Chris Petersen isn’t happy about Washington’s TV-dictated night games (7:45 p.m. Saturday), but it is TV revenues that keep him the state’s highest paid employee.

Chris Petersen is a big fan of daylight for football. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Rarely does Chris Petersen get worked up over conference-policy issues in public. The Huskies coach is, after all, The Bishop, at least according to his Washington State counterpart, Mike Leach, and bishops usually do not speak ill of the church.

But the advent of a 7:45 p.m. Saturday start for sixth-ranked Washington’s game against Ca (3-2, 0-2) at Husky Stadium inspired him to a rare pique Monday over the Pac-12 Networks’ scatter-shotting of schedules.

Coaches and many fans have been kvetching since the 2012 start-up of the conference’s television show about awkward game times and the short notices given, so there was nothing really new Monday.

But Petersen did reach a fresh level of stridency.

“I just want to say again to our fans, we apologize for these late games, and also just reiterate it has nothing to do with us,” he said at his weekly press briefing. “We want to play at 1 o’clock. It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure. No one’s gonna watch our game on the East Coast that late. We all know that.

“We haven’t had a kickoff before 5 o’clock this season. It’s painful for our team, painful for our administration, and certainly and most importantly, for our fans.”

Feeling compelled to publicly apologize for what he thinks is dubious decision-making by his bosses is surprising for Petersen, and probably won’t sit well with the pope, er, Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner who cooked up the scheme.

Asked whether he thinks raising his voice now will help, he said, “I don’t think they even kinda care about my voice, or probably any of the coaches’ voices. I don’t think there’s one coach out there, or any school in the West, that wants to play all their games at night. Everybody wants to play in the daytime.”

Petersen knows well the reasons for the schedule: By spreading games over multiple broadcast windows, as well as days, the network and its two national partners, ESPN and Fox, can sell more advertising, then pay the schools higher rights fees. The revenues in theory helped pay for the massive increases in facility construction and coaching salaries around the conference.

“We all know that everything we’re doing comes down to money,” he said. “TV contracts are big, and they tell us when to play.”

But when Petersen was coaching at Boise State from 2006-2013, the TV networks asked the smaller school in a smaller conference if it was willing to move its games around in exchange for national exposure to its blue field and winning ways. Petersen said yes, admitting Monday it probably helped the program in the long run.

“It was a little harder there because we were on so many different days,” he said. “That situation probably helped us because (no other schools) were playing on Tuesday or Wednesday. It kinda got people’s attention.”

The complaint by Petersen, and shared by most coaches in the conference, is a little hypocritical because the network revenues are largely responsible for making him the state’s highest-paid public employee, and the conference’s best-compensated coach, at almost $4.9 million annually.

Since the athletic departments at most schools, including Washington, are running annual operating deficits, his argument over scheduling might be helped if the coaches all agreed to cut back salaries 10 percent, or trim here and there an assistant strength coach position that earns $200,000. Then they might be able to operate in the black and negotiate with the networks for greater control over scheduling.

The industry in general suffers from a severe case of financial bloat, at all schools and all levels. Until all the beneficiaries of the bloat agree on an across-the-board diet, football’s corpulence will spread all over the clock and calendar.




  • DAWG

    Terrible isn’t it. Used to be 12:30 PM every day. Home or away. Now it’s all over the map. Big money. Big media. I sure hope the players are getting their due.

    • art thiel

      It’s true, it was worthy to speak up. Maybe he should kneel for the anthem.

  • Buggy White

    We have family in Ohio, and that means the game starts at 10:45 pm their time.
    no wonder they never watch the Huskies for more than a half at most!

    • art thiel

      East coast bias/neglect. Familiar sports story here.

      • DAWG

        East Coast Bias?! Let me tell you a thing or two about East Coast Bias.1991 the Huskies are in the hunt for the National Championship so the Times or PI publishes the fax numbers for the sports writers with votes. I send each one a nice note explaining how dominate the Huskies are. About half a dozen “EAST COAST” types shot back faxes to me with sarcasting remarks about how great Miami is. RUDE ! The nerve of some people !

        • art thiel

          I would hope that things have changed in the voting crowd since 1991. I still believe that writers have no business voting in another industry’s business. Let the colleges rank their damn selves.

          • DAWG

            I was certain that would resonate with you. Yes, I took a FAX machine home from work and sent off polite notes on the UW.
            Wham ! Was I taken aback with those East Coast “Types”. To a man they were opposed. “WHAMMY IN MIAMI”, Art. I was there for the sweet satisfaction. Took the whole family.

  • ll9956

    Well stated, Art. I’d love to know what Petersen’s response would be, if it were suggested to him that a 10% salary cut and maybe one less $200K-a-year assistant strength coach for all Pac-12 schools could result in the schools having more clout in setting schedules.

    • art thiel

      Petersen probably would wonder why he would be asked to be first. Everyone complains about the situation, but neither the NCAA nor its individual beneficiaries will sacrifice something to fix it.

  • Husky73

    I live in Lynden and my wife and I had Husky season tickets for 36 years. Some of the most enjoyable days of our lives have been spent in Husky Stadium. A 7:45 pm start means we leave Lynden around 4, get to the park and ride at Northgate around 6, get to Husky stadium around 7 and walk out after the game about 11:15. It takes another half hour to get to the bus, wait in line (in the rain and cold) and sometimes 45 minutes to return to Northgate. From there it’s two hours to get home. We’re not exactly young anymore and we arrive home exhausted, and remain tired all day Sunday. OR….we can sit in our living room, save the $180 in ticket prices, and watch the game comfortably. No wonder that we (sadly) gave up our seats, and no wonder that Pac 12 attendance is down.

    • art thiel

      Your story has been repeated in some shape or form by many throughout the West Coast. But these days, ticket revs are far secondary to TV revs at all schools. So really, the schools care far less about the paying customers than they used to.

  • Scott McBride

    Art, Given the church theme that you started the column with, I thought it was a nice touch to evoke “advent” in the next paragraph. Then, I was hoping you would work in “epiphany” in the story and maybe even a “confession”. But it might have been a stretch to wedge in “Saint Ewald the Dark”, whose feast day is today (Oct. 3).

    • art thiel

      My biblical scholarship doesn’t extend much beyond my readings in First Crustaceans.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Has any sportswriter in attendance at one of these press conferences had the sack to ask the coach about this “little” hypocrisy? Because it is painfully apparent. Surely he’s not so caught up in his own bubble he doesn’t see it? Coach, your $5 million/year is a direct function of TV money, and that in turn leads inevitably to the scheduling you are complaining about now. Would you take a commensurate reduction in your salary to get more afternoon games? If not, you probably should grin and bear it. Let others complain, because it certainly is worth of complaint.

    I like the man as a coach, and a symbol of the U-Dub. Straight talker, seems to encourage good behavior and long-term thinking in his players, extremely well organized, etc. James-like in some ways, to invoke a legend. But this one is pretty obvious…

    • art thiel

      He is James-like in more ways than you listed, including a short fuse for any external matter he believes compromises his chances for success. The late games are bad for his players, mostly because the day before kickoff is so long, boring and trouble-inviting. Also messes up Sunday work.

      Apologizing to fans is his populist way of stoking the masses to outrage.

    • the obvious question

      Nick Saban does quite well and hasn’t had a midnight game lately. All TV money doesn’t come from night games, the ratings for college games are readily available online. If TV ratings were better for these games all of the coaches would be fighting for them.

  • coug73

    Fans needn’t buy tickets or sport packages for their viewing pleasure. I dropped Root and ESPN and don’t miss any of it. Haven’t gone to a college football game since the Cougs stopped coming to Seattle for one home game a year. I go to a viewing party once in awhile or pick up a game on ABC, NBC. Fox, or CBS. I enjoy watching the Hawks when I can and haven’t seen a Coug game or Husky game this season. I have a life without the expense of tickets or sport packages. No big deal.

  • the obvious question

    Perfectly logical argument. Chris Petersen makes a great deal of money, therefore the Husky players don’t need time to prepare for their Monday classes, the Husky fans don’t get any notice and no longer get to watch their team in the daylight, the team doesn’t need to be seen by any of the people who rank them, sharing the burden of late games is unfair to the TV stations and the whole Husky nation needs to just suck it up and quit complaining. Or…this market driven excuse can be solved the same way it is being done in the NFL.