There are two topics that seem to get Georgia fans going more so than other fans: 1) identifying our biggest rival and 2) agreeing on the optimal start time for a home game.
We’ll leave the biggest rival (Tech) for another day, but a news item from Mississippi has stirred the kickoff time pot and has started the discussion back up once again. It doesn’t take much.
Ole Miss has announced that it will move its season opener against Memphis to 6 p.m. It’s not a huge change – the original start time was 5:00. The school mentioned the heat as a driving factor behind the change.
"The heat factor played a major role in this decision," said Ole Miss Athletics Director Pete Boone. "We have experienced exceptionally hot weather in Oxford this summer, and we hope to provide as much relief as possible for our fans in the early-season games."
Not paying $50 to see Ole Miss vs. Memphis would seem like a good starting point for fans seeking relief. There are still tickets remaining – surprised?
Anyway, the news from Oxford was enough to get the attention of Georgia fans who are facing a 12:30 kickoff for their opener against Georgia Southern and a 3:30 start for the Central Michigan game a week later. It’s easy to see why many Georgia fans are steamed. The graph below from the National Weather Service shows a typical summertime temperature forecast. The hottest part of the day is between noon and 6 p.m. (no kidding!) with a peak temperature and heat index around 3:00. After 3:00, the temperature and heat index drop gradually and then begin to fall off after 6:00.
If there’s one weather benefit to an earlier start time, it’s that we should miss any rain. Summer storms usually develop later in the afternoon and into the evening. A 12:30 start should keep things dry unless there’s an organized weather system.
A 12:30 start puts fans in the seats at the beginning of the hottest part of the day and then turns up the heat as the game goes on. A 3:30 start puts fans in the seats at the hottest part of the day and provides only slight relief towards the end. A 6:00 start keeps fans out of the stadium for most of the hottest part of the day, and there’s quite a bit of cooldown by the game’s conclusion. If heat is a concern, Ole Miss’s decision seems to make good sense.
But things are never that simple at Georgia. TV is almost always a factor. Ole Miss’s opener is not televised, so the kickoff time is much more flexible. Georgia’s opener is televised pay-per-view, so you’d still think there could be some flexibility. The Central Michigan game has been picked up by FSN.
Even when you take the heat out of it, there’s still plenty of disagreement about the optimal starting time. It usually breaks down along the lines of age and geography. Older fans are used to the traditional 1:00 kickoff before television began putting games at all hours of the day on every day of the week. There’s also a good chance you’ll be home at a reasonable hour. Younger fans like night games and the all-day tailgate, but the University administration doesn’t appreciate the condition of campus after those late games.
Fans who live in south Georgia have been very vocal in opposition to later kickoffs, and the athletic department does listen to them. That bloc is probably the reason why Georgia has showed restraint in moving kickoff times, but can you blame them? Unless you shell out for a hotel room, you’re arriving home just a few hours from sunrise.
Personally, I’m still of the age where I appreciate a later start. I’m not going to follow up a 7:45 game with a trip downtown anymore, but there’s nothing wrong with a nice, long tailgate. On the other hand, I’m starting to see how tough it is on families the later a game is. I wouldn’t want to keep up with a gaggle of kids through a day-long tailgate and a game that ends after 11:00. It seems as if CBS has it just right with their 3:30 starts…I’ve rarely seen complaints about games starting in the mid afternoon.
Don’t count on Ole Miss’s change to affect any Georgia start time. We’re stuck with 12:30. We’re not the only ones – Florida’s game against Hawaii is also set for 12:30 (due to TV), and they’ll likely have it even worse than we will.