In the perfect world that UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood envisions, college football rivalry games are played at the end of the season, on crisp, cool afternoons that make one’s cheeks turn rosy. And every other game is against Wisconsin. Cha-ching!
That world probably also includes one of those movie montages showing calendar pages flipping to indicate the passage of time. In this case, the calendar pages would be flipping backward, to when Utah and Brigham Young still were part of the Mountain West’s promising future instead of its mediocre past.
Oh, well. What’s done is done.
What might yet be done, one of the talking points of a Friday conference call between MWC athletic directors, is each member declaring a natural rival and receiving latitude to schedule that rival when it makes the most sense. Both Livengood and UNR athletic director Cary Groth confirmed their natural … um, rivalry-ness … for one another. And they agree it makes the most sense to play at the end of the season, not in early October or wherever the dart lands on the schedule.
The Rebels and Wolf Pack have met 36 times in football since 1968. UNR has been UNLV’s last regularly scheduled opponent seven times, but not since 1977.
Livengood said the Rebels want to play the Wolf Pack the first weekend of December on "Championship Saturday" before the Big Cheese conferences get around to feeding their cash cows in prime time.
"Our preference is for a noon or a 1 p.m. game," he said. "Television tends to dictate that at that time of the year, and that’s why it is important to have that part of the protocol. It just makes sense at the end of the year. Can you imagine the Rebels and Wolf Pack, with a traditional 1 p.m. kickoff? Wow."
Livengood termed the chances of UNLV and UNR burning barns at season’s end "very realistic" starting in 2012, when the Wolf Pack and Fresno State join the MWC. He said it is important to get the proposal on the table now, before schedules are set in stone and so TV partners can be brought into the loop. Final decisions about these and other scheduling matters probably will be determined next spring, he said.
His preference in general is for the Rebels to play more afternoon games during the second half of the season, a "slippery slope" when it comes to TV. UNLV has experimented with playing daytime games after the change to standard time in past years, with mostly negligible results. But at least The Hardy Few didn’t turn into Popsicles by halftime.
Again, this is what happens when one takes the money from a bad TV deal and runs, or signs extensions locking one into a bad TV deal for another seven years. When TV says you jump at 8 p.m. against the nation’s fourth-ranked team, up against Halloween parties and the late innings of the World Series and the Oregon-Southern California game on another network that most people actually get, you jump at 8 p.m.
Saturday’s game against fourth-ranked Texas Christian at Sam Boyd Stadium could have been a box office bonanza for UNLV had A) Rebels basketball season not already started, or B) the game been played at 1 p.m., when the temperature was in the 70s and apple-bobbing had yet to begin, or C) local fans showed the No. 4 team in the nation proper respect.
Instead, it was played at 8 p.m., in front of a generously announced but still alarmingly meager crowd of 16,745, considering the quality of opponent.
In Livengood’s perfect world, high schools play on Friday night and the NFL plays on Sunday afternoon and Monday night with Saturday afternoons set aside for college football and Keith Jackson, his old Washington State pal, saying "Whoa, Nellie." He also realizes that particular Elvis left the building years ago with the advent of these TV cash grabs and Jackson having lateraled to Kirk Herbstreit.
"My preference is to see us play more games on Saturday afternoon," Livengood said. "Again, a lot of that is Catch-22. As we become better and more attractive to TV, there’s a little less flexibility."
Wait a minute. Did he say as the Rebels become better?
"Whoa, Nellie," indeed.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352.