College basketball season tips off a week from Friday, but you can be forgiven if you didn’t know.
After all, there’s a lot going on this time of year. College football and the NFL are in full swing and fast approaching the most exciting time of their seasons. The NHL and NBA are underway. Then there are the presidential debates, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, or whatever else you are streaming via Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon, to the screen you happen to be accessing at the moment.
It has always been challenging for college basketball to gain traction this time of year, and in many respects that may never change. Football alone pushes every entertainment piece to the second tier, and many casual college basketball fans believe (quite falsely, I might add) that the games in November and December don’t matter. They would rather tune in in February—after the Super Bowl—and enjoy the marvelous stretch run.
Still, there is no reason college basketball can’t at least put its best foot forward when the season tips off. Unfortunately, this sport has always lacked an official Opening Day. The first slate on Friday the 13th (nice touch, by the way) features a couple of compelling games (North Carolina vs. Temple, Gonzaga vs. Pittsburgh) and Saturday the 14th will be significant in terms of quantity, if not quality. Problem is, by the time those games tip off, college football will dominate the news, so only the most rabid college hoops fans will be paying attention. Good luck catching a college basketball highlight on SportsCenter.
For many years, people who love and manage college basketball have lobbied for an Opening Day, but for some reason that has not come to pass. So every year, we see college basketball trickle out rather weakly, without any organized pattern or marketing hook to cut through the cacophonic clutter.
That’s why we need an Opening Day. It packs a lot more oomph! than a slow rollout. It also conveys a regularity that quickly affixes itself to people’s viewing habits.
Therefore, your resident Hoop Thinker is on hand to submit an idea that will not only address this problem, but will do so in a way that makes everybody feel good about their team, this sport, and our country.
Resolved: College basketball teams should begin competition on Veterans Day, November 11th, every year, beginning in 2016.
This idea has several benefits:
- It packs a powerful punch. Instead of a quiet rollout that takes place over two or three days, every single team will play its first game on the same day. Right now, Fan A says to Fan B, “College hoops starts next weekend ... I think. When is our team playing?” When this idea is in effect, all fans will know the exact date when their teams will open the season. They can begin counting down the day after the national championship game. The excitement will be stirred up well in advance and will crest at just the right time.
- This will do nothing to change the general time frame by which the season currently tips off. The rules stipulate that a school may not play its first game before the second Friday in November. Nobody’s calendar will be thrown off-kilter. But it will only bring some badly needed uniformity to the start of the season.
- Veterans Day is the same date every year. That means every five out of seven years, it will happen on a weekday—in other words, a non-football day. This will ensure maximum exposure for the live games as well as more prominent coverage on the nightly sports shows.
- Best of all, this idea will allow our favorite sport to celebrate our most valued citizens. You can already imagine all the tie-ins these games will have with local veterans. Maybe the schools will try to out-do each other trying to find the best and most creative way to honor our servicemen and women, who sacrifice a great deal so the rest of us have the freedom to think that something as silly as a basketball game is important. We’ve already seen games played on aircraft carriers and on military bases around the world. Who’s ready to up the ante? For the standard home games, the school can bring local veterans to halfcourt so the crowd can stand and applaud before tipoff. The cameras will be on-hand, and the goose bumps will be free.
I recognize this idea will not fix all the challenges college basketball faces when it comes to garnering attention this time of year. This is American, and in America football is king. However, the sport owes it to itself and all its fans to start strong. The fact that it can be done in a way that honors our veterans is a huge bonus. Military commanders, politicians, media, fans, perhaps the president of the United States—they will all set aside what they are doing for a couple of hours, say thanks to our veterans and enjoy some hoops.
It is obviously too late to put this plan in place for this season, but I am hoping that on November 11, 2016, and every November 11th henceforth, college basketball will finally get the Opening Day it deserves. If you think this is a good idea, please like, share, tweet, and otherwise help spread the word.
Now let’s get this party started.