First Person: Night Game Facts

By Adam Lucas | 7 Comment(s) | Posted

After five long years of losing to NC State, plus a full two years of watching them revel in the investigation into Carolina athletics and academics, most Tar Heel fans would tell you that the Oct. 27 football game between the two schools could be played in the parking lot of the News and Observer offices (in other words, a home game for the Wolfpack) and Carolina fans would still be there.

12:30 p.m.? Fine, whatever. 12:30 a.m.? Sure, I’ll bring the biscuits from Time-Out.

So the game time for this particular Carolina home game doesn’t really matter. It would be more fun if it kicked off at 3:30, or even—let’s get crazy here—at 6 p.m. or after. Night games just feel different, and college football fans have been conditioned that today’s big games take place under the lights.

In the case of Carolina-State this year, however, those rules don’t apply. It would be a big game if both teams had yet to win a game, and it would be a big game if both teams led their respective divisions, which is entirely possible. And yet, it’s a little mystifying that 2012 will mark the eighth straight year the series will be played at noon or 12:30 p.m., and the eighth straight year it has been televised by the ACC Network.

That’s a startling statistic. The next-longest current streak of a series appearing on the ACC Network is Duke-Wake Forest, which has been in the dreaded 12:30 slot for four straight seasons.

It’s understandable that Carolina-State, which is probably the most important game in the state but doesn’t always have mass appeal outside the North Carolina borders, would be attractive to the ACC Network. For that reason, the game is probably never going to slip past the 12:30 time slot when games are being chosen by TV networks. In other words, if the game isn't big-time enough to be selected for a night ESPN game or a 3:30 ABC contest, it's almost certainly going to be played at a Raycom-dictated time (under the current contract, that means 12:30). But for eight straight years, not one other network has seen fit to take a flier on a game that often makes for compelling television. That’s a little unusual.

Or maybe it’s not. Tar Heel football fans have long complained that the program is the king of the noon game. As it turns out, that’s true. Carolina last hosted a Saturday evening ACC game on Oct. 30, 2004--the Connor Barth kick against Miami.

Since then, there have been at least 46 Saturday night ACC home games, and zero have been played at Kenan Stadium. In that same time period, every other school in the league has hosted at least one.

There’s an argument to be made that Carolina hasn’t been picked for a night game because the program hasn’t been successful enough. After all, Florida State has hosted the most Saturday night ACC home games since Oct. 30, 2004 (10), and the Seminoles are essentially the league’s marquee program. But the Tar Heels have been ranked in 11 weeks during the time frame since that 2004 game against State. Wake Forest has been ranked for a roughly similar number of weeks (16) in that period, yet the Demon Deacons have hosted six Saturday night ACC games. Maryland has been ranked for just four weeks since Oct. 30, 2004, yet the Terps have hosted eight Saturday night ACC home games, the second-highest total in the league during that period.

The following table shows the number of Saturday night ACC home games hosted by each member league school since Carolina played Miami under the lights on Oct. 30, 2004. Keep in mind that this does not include Thursday night, Sunday night, or Monday night games. If those were included, Virginia Tech and NC State would rank much higher.

SchoolSat. night ACC games
FSU 10
Maryland 8
Wake Forest 6
Boston College 5
Miami 4
Clemson 4
Virginia 3
Georgia Tech 3
Virginia Tech 1
Duke 1
NC State 1
Carolina 0

It’s not just that Carolina hasn’t had any luck being chosen for night games. It’s also that the Tar Heels have had an uncanny run of “luck” being chosen for the 12:30 (which used to be noon) slot held by the ACC Network, which you might better know as Raycom.Some of the numbers in the below table, like Florida State with the fewest number of ACCN appearances, make sense. But some don’t—like the fact that Carolina has as many Raycom slots as Georgia Tech and Clemson combined.

The following table shows the number of ACC Network/Raycom appearances for each ACC school dating back through the 2005 season.

SchoolRaycom appearances
Carolina 26
NC State 22
Wake Forest 18
Virginia 18
Duke 16
Boston College 15
Maryland 15
Clemson 15
Virginia Tech 12
Georgia Tech 11
Miami 7
Florida St. 7


Plenty of variables go into choosing each week's ACC football game times. But looking at the simple facts, it certainly appears Carolina is getting more than its fair share of early starts--and much less than its fair share of evening kickoffs.

You tell us: how does an earlier game time impact your Tar Heel football game day? Have you found any advantages to an early start?


  1. Roger B.'s avatar
    Roger B.
    | Permalink
    I was born and raised in VA but am absolutely crazy about the Tar Heels. I come down to games every year and having to make the early morning drive stinks! Not only does that limit my sleep, it also limits the amount of tailgating/Franklin St. time that is available.

    Having night games would definitely be a great enhancement because it does allow travelers more time to get to the games and enjoy themselves prior to as well. I hope the ACC wakes up and realizes this is not fair and change the schedule immediately!!
  2. Neil W.'s avatar
    Neil W.
    | Permalink
    Later starts mean more fun for tailgating and a greater likelihood of people being in their seats for kickoff. And the atmosphere under the lights is just more exciting and intense. The Thursday night game against FSU was the best gameday atmosphere in Kenan in the last ten years. It would be great (and unexpected) if the desires of actual paying ticketholders occasionally were taken into account when scheduling game times.
  3. Bill's avatar
    | Permalink
    What does fairness have to do with it? MONEY is the only thing that matters when it comes to television. But would someone explain why putting this game on at 12:30pm makes more money that later in the day?
  4. mike's avatar
    | Permalink
    i have been amazed that the last ACC game that Carolina Played @ nite was in 2004, Carolina Has always had much better attendance @ nite than that God awful 12.30 game i remember 62,300 for the FSU game, 12.30 games ruin College football games, and as far as Raycom 2nd rate network at the best get rid of Mike Hogewood for petes sake CArolina Fans need to complain to Raycom about this 0 ACC games in 8 years ill be calling, im glad somebody has finally reported this
  5. Gene Smith's avatar
    Gene Smith
    | Permalink
    I never thought of the time of day and its effect on the atmosphere of the game, but having night games definitely improves attendance as well as a chance to tailgate. The resulting exuberance would have an effect on visiting athletes, and thus effect recruiting. The powers that be should definitely make a concerted effort to resist noon games, and force more night games.
  6. JSTOCK's avatar
    | Permalink
    It doesn't surprise me that the ACC is keeping the UNC/NCSU game early in the day. They have done the same thing for the UNC/ECU games, and the justification is that they want to keep the drinking time at a minimum to avoid out of control fans/students at a minimum. Is this right or wrong, I can't say, but I have heard from numerous law enforcement people and admin folks that this is their justification.
  7. archheel's avatar
    | Permalink
    Gotta understand this in context....for the national networks, UNC is no more than a Top 40 program (and make no mistake, we've been involved in night games on nat'l TV several times in the aforementioned timeframe, just not HOME games).

    Second, for the ACC REGIONAL network, there is no bigger draw for the advertisers than a game involving UNC. We are the bellweather and most nationally famous university, in terms of interest (positive and negative) in the league. That such a comment will p*ss off a bunch of mooU fans interests me not one bit. So, Raycom wink-winks at ABC, they pass us up, and voila', on Raycome we show up a disproportionate share of the time.

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