Playing football games outside of the Saturday spectrum has long been an attractive proposition for schools that historically are not afforded the opportunity to have national television audiences to themselves.
For years, non-Power 5 schools, including HBCUs, have been a fixture on Tuesday, Thursday, and even Friday nights.
But Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders does not believe Thursday games work in the best interest of schools and leagues which they represent.
“I don’t like Thursdays, man. I don’t like Thursdays,” Sanders said during the SWAC coaches media availability. You know why I don’t like Thursdays? I don’t like Thursdays for the fans.
“Who’s coming? I don’t like to see empty stadiums. That’s not putting our best foot forward. I know we want to be on television and I know we want (that) look, putting our best foot forward?”
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The second-year head coach bristled that the game-day experience — tailgating and the communal aspect that makes the sport unique — is compromised during weekday time commitments.
“We like to tailgate. We like to get out there. We like to see the bands,” said Sanders. “We like to see the pageantry … we like to see all of that.
“That’s not going to happen on Thursday night. You know why? because our people have to work on Thursday and then they got to work on Friday. I don’t like Thursday night games for our people.”
The SWAC completed its three scheduled Thursday night games of the season, with last Thursday’s Arkansas-Pine Bluff-Prairie View game on ESPNU.
Jackson State is not scheduled to play a Thursday night game this season.
SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland previously indicated that Thursday games “don’t work” for the league in conversations with ESPN regarding the possibility that some games could be televised elsewhere.
“The Thursday night games don’t really work for Southwestern Athletic Conference member institutions,” McClelland said. “We want to put our best games on television and, quite frankly, those best games are on Saturdays. Nobody’s gonna move one of their 40, 50, or 60 (thousand) attended games on a Thursday night.”
So what about Friday nights where fans might be more willing to attend without the constraints of work hanging over their heads?
“Friday night might be more conductive, but then you step in on the high schools,” said Sanders. “I mean, everybody got kids. Everybody got their babies they want to see. They want to see their kids and you’re trying to take from different markets.
“I like Saturdays, not Saturday nights. I like Saturdays, that’s what I like. I know we’re competing against other networks and other schools, but that’s why we need our own network for our people.”