A little more on why KU football moved its first 2 games of 2021 to Friday nights
The idea of the Kansas football program moving its first two games of the 2021 season — and of the Lance Leipold era — to Friday nights initially sounded a little sour to me.
Friday nights, after all, are for high school football. And I’m not sure that a program that’s in the position KU is in at its current state can just assume that fans will show up whenever they play their games.
They want them to. They need them to. But actually getting them there is far from a given at this point.
With that in mind, I decided to take a little deeper look at why KU’s Week 1 and Week 2 games against South Dakota, at home, and on the road against Coastal Carolina, were moved from Saturdays to Fridays.
There had to be a good reason, right?
TV was my first guess. It always is these days. And it turns out that was half correct.
According to a KU spokesperson, it was Coastal Carolina that asked Kansas if it could move the Week 2 game to a Friday night to allow for the game to be broadcast by ESPN.
Naturally, both sides were interested in the national audience, and that game, which is set to kickoff at a time to be announced later on Sept. 10, will be shown on ESPN+.
This request, I was told, was made weeks ago, long before Leipold was hired.
After agreeing to the change, administrators at Kansas then had a decision to make — leave the Sept. 4 season opener on Saturday, therein creating a short week for the Jayhawks in their first road game of the season the following week, or look into moving that game up a day, as well.
Given the fact that the Jayhawks lost to Coastal Carolina in each of the past two seasons, and the fact that this year’s game is on the road and will require Kansas to travel to the Eastern time zone, the decision was made to move up the opener to preserve a full week of preparation between Week 1 and Week 2.
Hard to argue with that move, especially when you consider that Kansas and Leipold would get a major lift from a fast start this fall.
So why not take advantage of every possible opportunity to allow Leipold and his team to be as prepared as they possibly can be for what we already know will be a tough game, regular week or otherwise?
It stinks that it comes at the expense of high school football, but it doesn’t sound like that was anything intentional.
The good news here is it’s not like KU’s games will automatically take away from the high school scene on those two Friday nights in September.
Fans, parents and supporters of the local prep teams are likely will still focus all of their attention on those games and hope to catch the end of the KU games or keep track of them on their phones.
If anything, it’s KU that could suffer from the setup, as several high school players and their families in and around the area who may have chosen to attend KU’s opener if it were on Saturday now will not be able to.
It is what it is, though, right?
The bottom line remains unchanged. Whether on a Friday or a Saturday or a Wednesday morning at 5 a.m., KU’s football program still will have to first show fans that there’s a reason to pay attention and attend games before anyone on either side spends too much time sweating the schedule.
That part’s up to Leipold, his staff and the Kansas players. Three weeks into his time as the new KU football coach, all those involved seem excited about the challenge.