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Originally published January 22, 2013 at 8:02 PM | Page modified January 22, 2013 at 11:34 PM

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Wednesday games don't do much to attract fans

The ancient among us recall a time when the scheduling format for Pac-12/10/8 basketball required teams to play Friday-Saturday, without...

Seattle Times college basketball reporter

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No doubt that the former Thursday/Saturday or Friday/Sunday scheduling format was... MORE
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The ancient among us recall a time when the scheduling format for Pac-12/10/8 basketball required teams to play Friday-Saturday, without a rest day.

You can look it up: On UCLA's celebrated "Lost Weekend" of 1974, when John Wooden's vaunted Bruins were swept in the Willamette Valley, they lost at Oregon State on Friday night and were on the floor at Oregon 17 hours after the finish for a Saturday afternoon game.

That's hardly optimal scheduling. But I'm not sure the brave new world of the Pac-12 has it right, either, with its Wednesday-Saturday format imposed weekly on some teams. Washington and Washington State have their third such challenge this week (second on the road) against the Oregon schools.

Tuesday, Pac-12 coaches on the league's weekly conference call evinced mostly a collective shrug at the change. What they like is the extra day of preparation on the back end.

I'm guessing you'd get different answers from fans and players.

It's premature for any sweeping conclusions about the new arrangement, but the early response isn't overwhelming. There have been five Wednesday-night games, including an 8:30 start, which have played to 56.2 percent of capacity. That number is bumped up by Washington's 8,184 that watched the Huskies and Colorado (with an 8:30 tip), and yet, despite the fact the Huskies were 3-0, that house was smaller than for any UW league home game since 2004.

Colorado, facing a long, late trip back last week, stayed in the state. Washington and WSU are breaking the trips in half and flying back. To me, that seems silly, an overreaction to the dreaded, presidential no-no "missed class time."

Isn't it possible to schedule a couple of two-hour study halls a day on the road, or, as Colorado coach Tad Boyle points out, use web tools like "Blackboard," which facilitates access to class notes?

"Education has changed so much," he said. "You don't have to come back and get notes off a buddy or a girlfriend."

WSU coach Ken Bone is in a more remote outpost than anybody, but he favors the return to campus, saying, "There's something to be said for (players) to be getting back and sleeping in their own beds instead of hanging out in a hotel for a couple of days."

It will be a while before we know if Wednesday night is truly a losing proposition, or in the bigger picture, if live gates are going to suffer because of the dramatic increase in TV exposure.

As appealing as it is to have every game televised, it's obvious Wednesday night, especially the late slot, isn't as attractive to fans attending games. Thursday night, you're a day away from Casual Friday, you might stay up later, and you might be able to leave the office early the next day. Not so Wednesday night.

This is, of course, all about enhanced TV contracts and more money, a lot of which is going to increasingly glitzy football facilities and bigger bucks for football coaches.

It's cushy for the guy in his living room, not so accommodating for the fan at the turnstile. Stop us if you've heard this one.

And what's more ...

• Talk about the catbird seat: Oregon is 5-0 and, because of the unbalanced schedule, is done playing both Arizona and UCLA. "They can't play both of them just once?" California coach Mike Montgomery said incredulously, informed of the oddity. "That's pretty good stuff."

• Marquee game Thursday night is UCLA at sixth-ranked Arizona.

• Speaking of Montgomery, his team's injuries, depth issues and modest front line make it debatable whether Cal (10-7) can avoid his first losing season in 20 years. He was 7-23 at Stanford in '92-93.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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