Chase Lucas peered at his iPhone, his eyes skimming the news, and was taken aback by what he read.
“I saw that on Twitter, and I don’t know, I kind of questioned that like, ‘Woah, that’s a bit early,’” the Arizona State cornerback said.
The redshirt junior was reacting to a suggestion by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. During the recent Pac-12 Football Media Day in Los Angeles, Scott revealed the conference has started groundwork talks about some conference games having kickoff at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.
The plan would give the Pac-12 access to the 9 a.m. slots on ESPN and FOX. This season, FOX is placing premium games in that early window.
“We’ve discussed it recently,’’ Scott said at the conference’s media day. “That would be new and out of the box for our conference, but I’ve tried to put everything on the table.
“There’s a lot of frustration from fans in certain markets to the late night kicks. I’d like to see one or two games this season that are 12 noon (ET) kicks be Pac-12 games and see what markets might respond positively to that.”
Initial reaction for many, fans included, were similar to what Lucas felt. However, taking a step back and thinking about it, Lucas saw the other point of view.
“But, of course I’m (going to) be ready by 9 a.m.,” he said. “We’ve been practicing at 7:30 in the morning before.
“I have mixed feelings about it, but if that’s what they decide to do, or that’s what we end up doing, I’m OK with it.”
Lucas’ teammate, redshirt junior quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole, echoed that mindset. The team will do what is needed to be prepared for its game, he said, regardless of the time on the clock. Even if players have to rise before the sun does.
“If we’re ready to play, we’re ready to play,” Sterling-Cole said. “(My) honest take on it, guys got to wake up five hours earlier for the game, then that’s what we need to do. Honestly, it’s adversity. You got to take it how you take it and grow from it.”
One ASU player suggested he might enjoy the idea.
Wide receiver Frank Darby’s energy appears to outlast the Energizer Bunny’s. At times, the redshirt junior can’t sleep at night, he said, because he has so much energy. He believes he could spring out of bed and be ready to catch an 80-yard bomb.
Darby, who hopes to be a leader in the wide receiver room and for an overall young team, knows his teammates aren’t necessarily morning people.
He tells them, “‘It’s mindset, fellas,’“ Darby said. “Don’t think you can’t do it. We can do it. … It’s just be trying to be that leader, giving everybody that energy. If you tried, take some of my energy. I’ll go over and hug one of them. I’m here with you, lean on me – I’m not tired. I feel like my teammates see that they’ll be ‘If Frank is doing it, let’s go with him.’“
Although players may be OK with a 9 a.m. kickoff, fans may not be. And that concerns Lucas.
“No one is going to be here at 8 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “(We’ll) treat it like any other game. There could be one person. We’ll treat it like any other game.”
Coach Herm Edwards put on his college professor cap and wondered how it might impact students who also struggle to make it to a lecture hall during the week.
“If a college student, there’s still Friday night, what do they do on Friday nights? Are they available Saturday morning at 9? After Friday night?” Edwards said. “You go from tailgate and hot dogs, barbeque to waffles and pancakes. I get why they’re talking about that because you get that East Coast presence now watching them. But how is it going to affect the stadium? I don’t know that.”
The benefits include a prime television slot that would expose the program to a larger audience. At the forefront of the concerns is that the early start would be a challenge to fans, especially students.
Scott has suggested a trial of the 9 a.m. kickoffs could start this year. Stay tuned.
Story by Brady Vernon, Cronkite News