The “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series keeps rolling along and we’ve covered a lot of ground in a few short days. Most recently, a pair of defensive topics took center stage as the last two entries looked at defending running quarterbacks and interceptions.
Other topics so far have included punt returns, the return of some alums as graduate assistants, the competition at center, and more. The previous articles are below. Click away.
No. 89 – Kickoff Times
With all of those topics in the rearview mirror, something else caught my attention Monday. The news actually came out Thursday, but I missed the trend-breaking nature of it at first. VirginiaSports.com issued a news release Thursday to announce that UVA’s kickoff time at Indiana is at 7:30 p.m. Ho hum, put it on the calendar, and move on. Right?
This afternoon, I had a thought about that kickoff time though. The Hoos had previously announced that their season opener with Richmond will kick off at 6 p.m. at Scott Stadium. That means Virginia will start its first two games of its schedule in the evening. It’s been a while since that happened.
Take a look (all times are Eastern):
- 2018: 6 p.m. Richmond/7:30 p.m. @ Indiana (3 night games known, one on a Friday)
- 2017: 3:30 p.m. William & Mary/3:30 p.m. Indiana (2 night games, both on Friday)
- 2016: 3:30 p.m. Richmond/10:30 p.m. @ Oregon (1 night game)
- 2015: 3:30 p.m. @ UCLA/3:30 p.m. Notre Dame (1 night game on a Friday)
- 2014: 12 p.m. UCLA/3:30 p.m. Richmond (4 night games, one on a Friday)
- 2013: 3:30 p.m. BYU/3:30 p.m. Oregon (0 night games)
- 2012: 3 p.m. Richmond/12 p.m. Penn State (1 night game on a Thursday)
- 2011: 6 p.m. William & Mary/7 p.m. @ Indiana (5 night games, one on a Thursday)
- 2010: 6 p.m. Richmond/10:30 p.m. @ USC (4 night games)
- 2009: 6 p.m. William & Mary/3:30 p.m. TCU (1 night game)
- 2008: 3:30 p.m. USC/3:45 p.m. Richmond (2 night games)
Breaking down that list, you’ll find that Virginia hasn’t opened the season with back-to-back evening kickoffs since 2011 and interestingly enough, that season featured a trip to Indiana in the first two weeks too. This is only the third time it’s happened in the last 10 years. The 2010 season featured the same scenario.
While I was checking the last decade from 2008-2017 for kickoff times in the first two weeks, I went ahead and noted how many total night games each season had as well. There have been 22 evening kickoffs (6 p.m. or later) for the Hoos over those 10 seasons. The majority of those came in three seasons: 2010 (4), 2011 (5), and 2014 (4). Saturday night games have been even rarer, though. Of the 22 evening kickoffs, six have occurred on either Thursday or Friday night so just 16 Saturday games have kicked off in the evening.
In that sense, 2018 is interesting. With three evening kickoffs already known for 2018, that puts this season as one with the fourth most evening kickoffs in the last 11 seasons – remember, TV announces kickoff times on a 12-day advanced notice schedule (unless the networks take a six-day option) so the number could grow as the season progresses. This season already has more evening kickoffs than five of the last six seasons.
There’s a decent chance this season will add a fourth night time kickoff since the Virginia and Virginia Tech game is scheduled for Friday again. The 2017 Friday night game between the rivals pulled a 1.25 rating with 2.144 million viewers per sportsmediawatch.com. The 2014 Friday night game with the Hoos and Hokies pulled a 1.7 rating with 3.05 million viewers. Both of those represent decent numbers for that week of college football games and for Friday night per that website’s information.
What about Saturday night games? With two Saturday evening kickoffs, this season surpasses each of the last three seasons too. That’s more than five of the last six seasons too, but it’s on par with the years during the Al Groh-Mike London changeover. Three of the four seasons from 2008-2011 had at least two Saturday night kickoffs.
In other words, those first two weeks of the season look like prime tailgating or party-hosting games for Virginia fans as they try to re-engage during Bronco Mendenhall’s rebuilding effort.