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Labor Day Weekend Kicks Off with College Football: TV in the Rah-Rah
August 29, 2013  | By Gerald Jordan

Even with temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees in some places, the indisputable fact is that autumn is here. How so? If eager sun-beavers can claim Memorial Day as the start of summer, simply because municipal pools open, then surely the rabid football fans among us can claim that the opening of college football season means that autumn is here. Not approaching. Here.

Sure, Opening Day in Major League parks across the country has its own special vibe, the eternal optimism of springtime and the scant prospect that the Cubs will make the playoffs.

But college football is real; it’s as real as the dazzling athleticism of the multi-millionaires-in-waiting. OK, OK, the talented student-athletes at colleges across the country.

Unlike the National Football League, though, college football is chockfull of rah-rah, the eternal hopes of jubilant (if not slightly tipsy) alumni. It’s the rah-rah that sells college football to television. In turn it is television that purchases the soul of athletic departments everywhere. The BCS schools and ESPN are conjoined, for better or for worse.

Fourteen teams will face off Thursday night, beginning at 6 ET with North Carolina at South Carolina on ESPN, and closing the seven-game evening at 10:30 p.m. ET with Rutgers at Fresno State on ESPNU.

And lest you get upset over the preponderance of Thursday night games, read the New York Times’ very excellent series this week on the impact that ESPN has on college football. A sentence from the Cliff’s Notes version of the series suggests that the Thursday night scheduling essentially gave rise to the Boise State Broncos becoming a college football force. Money (read that TV revenue) talks.

You can disallow any sophisticated knowledge of audience demographics and the fact that a growing TV network simply ravenous for programming creates for ESPN a seller’s market for rising football programs. The bitter truth is – and college faculty around the country will back me on this – Thursday is the new Saturday.

In a world populated by classes that convene on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students fudge as much time off as possible and cut corners to accelerate to the weekend.

Nine kickoffs tonight? No big deal; four Friday night, we’re getting there.

But say grace Saturday, because it’s game on; 25 games on. What more can the eternal sophomore yearn?

And as those familiar with New Orleans hospitality would say: for a bit of lagniappe, catch the matchup between the legendary Florida A&M and Mississippi Valley State (ever heard of Jerry Rice?) at 11:45 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN. The halftime show alone is worth your attention. ESPN also offers Ohio at Louisville at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, and will lower the Labor Day curtain at 8 p.m. ET Monday when Florida State lines up at Pitt.

Yup, it’s real again. It might be a tad early for the raccoon coat, but it's right on time for the spirit.

Or spirits, as the case may be.

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