The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the prevalence of noon start times for marquee matchups? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
There is no gamesmanship from Ohio State. There is no concerted effort from the Buckeyes to move up start times in the Horseshoe. And there is really no choice at all to be made by athletic director Gene Smith.
This is strictly business. And for both FOX and the Buckeyes, right now it’s booming thanks in large part to the decision to embrace Big Noon Kickoffs and the massive contract that allows the network to control when it wants to schedule its most marquee matchups.
Sure, if Ohio State begged for more primetime opportunities, there’s at least a chance that the broadcast partners would make an effort to help out. But the Buckeyes really have no incentive to do so — and neither does FOX.
The Buckeyes are drawing huge ratings in that early window, which is clearly going to make both sides happy. Whatever slight complications might arise from getting recruits to campus or missing out on a fireworks show at night is made up on the backend by having the most-watched games in the country year after year. Plus, Ohio State coaches get chances after the game to spend more time with visitors and their own families, while the players benefit from getting a head start on recovery and prep time for the next game.
For whatever complaints that may exist about the atmosphere, the Horseshoe is still one of the most intimidating venues for visitors anywhere in sports. There has never been any issue getting an electric crowd in Ohio Stadium at noon for The Game, and that is absolutely not going to be a problem for the home opener against Oregon. By now there is plenty of evidence that what matters most to turbo-charging the intensity in the building isn’t what time the game starts, it’s the quality of the opponent on the other sideline.
Plus, Ohio State is also proving to be damn-near unbeatable at home at noon, which is a nice perk to go along with the financial benefits of handing over scheduling rights to FOX. Make no mistake: Whenever the network has a chance to pick an Ohio State game, it’s going to leap at the chance — and it’s going to plug that matchup into the spot where it has found a way to establish and grow a consistent audience.
No, there isn’t as much time for fans to tailgate before kickoff when the Buckeyes start at noon. But if that’s the only complication, the benefits for the program far outweigh that concern. Plus, as Ohio State found out a few years ago when it was pushing for night games, there was an unintended consequence that directly led to it playing almost every road game in primetime. That took a physical toll on the roster as the season wore on, and it also gave underdog opponents a jolt of energy in their stadiums that Ohio State honestly doesn’t need with 100,000 fans always packing the Horseshoe anyway.
Gene Smith didn’t pick a noon kickoff for the Oregon matchup, and that time certainly wasn’t selected to give the Buckeyes a body-clock advantage over the visitors.
It just so happens to be one of the most appealing showdowns of the entire season. And FOX has a designated window for those games, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
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