Weeknight college football games, in a word, suck. Tonight against Texas is one of them. But without them, Iowa State would be even worse off for exposure.
It has been years since an Iowa State football game was not available on TV or streaming, at least at some package level. But being on TV and being a highlighted game are far different things.
A review of network and start-time assignments since 2004 shows that in 13 years, Iowa State football has been on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2 on a Saturday night precisely twice. (Why 2004? A few reasons: A kindergartner in fall 2004 is a college freshman today; that far back, only half the games were on TV at all; and that’s where the lsufootball.net archive stops.) There are plenty of other night slots, but the best Big 12 games have gone to those three. This is changing somewhat following contract negotiations that gave “Big Fox” more Big 12 games and, now, more Big Ten games as well.
ISU’s highest-profile Saturday appearances on prime-time TV in those 13 years are 2006 Nebraska (a loss), 7 PM on ABC; 2014 Baylor (a blowout loss), 7:20 PM on Fox; and 2015 TCU (another blowout loss), 6 PM on ESPN2. The two most recent ISU wins on ABC are 2002 Nebraska* — with Brent Musberger making the call — and 2005 Iowa. Both were 2:30 kickoffs.
When ISU has been on ESPN or ESPN2 at night otherwise, it’s been on a weeknight: 2005 Army, 2011 UConn, and 2011 Oklahoma State** were all Fridays (the last moved from ESPN2 because of the NBA lockout); 2013 Texas*** and 2016 Oklahoma were Thursdays. The even-year games at Texas appear consigned to the Longhorn Network until either it or the Big 12 Conference die — technically the “ESPN family of networks”, but come on. (ISU is cool with this because the game goes to cyclones.tv, and then Kansas does the equivalent for its games at Texas on odd years.)
It would be nice if times and networks didn’t matter as much as they do, but you have to factor in ESPN’s tendency to ignore anything that isn’t either on a flavor of ESPN or the CBS SEC Game of the Week. As far as “GameDay” and halftime highlights are concerned, 11 AM on FS1 barely counts as being on TV at all.
The last 1 PM kickoff at Jack Trice Stadium was 2010 Kansas, and ISU’s last 1 PM kickoff ever was 2011 Missouri in Columbia. The former was the last game that was neither televised nor streamed, and the latter the last that was online-only. I prefer afternoon games, but the spotlight is in the night light, and the Cyclones just haven’t been winning enough to get into that position.
* The viewer will note that the song played in the stadium at the end was “Celebration” and very much NOT “Sweet Caroline.” See also this remembrance of Pete Taylor.
** As of this morning, that’s the second-to-last time ISU has won a game on any ESPN-related network. The only one later, of 17 games overall, is 2014 Iowa (ESPN), thanks to Kirk Ferentz’s “Ice Ice Maybe” routine.
*** [indiscriminate primal screaming]