Today, the Spokesman Review reported that it sounds like Gonzaga and the West Coast Conference is going to drop the Big Monday games that they are part of and move their games on ESPN family of networks to a Thursday/Saturday type of setup where they can start games a little earlier than when they play on Big Monday. The Big Monday games on ESPN or ESPN2 started at 11:00 p.m. Central Time. That is still not starting until 9:00 p.m. on the west coast. But they also seemed to have a game each week that started at 10:00 p.m. Central on ESPNU that featured West Coast teams. The article didn’t mention the status of those games, but I think it would be part of the move to the Thursday/Saturday schedule detailed.
Of course, now there is the question of who will take the West Coast Conference spots on the Big Monday broadcasts? It would make sense for the WAC, the Big West or some other west coast conference to work out a deal for those spots, but would the Valley ever want to throw themselves out there as a potential replacement? Granted, the Valley has received a lot more exposure on the ESPN family of networks this past season, mainly in part because of the additional ESPNU platform, so why would they want to have late night games on Big Monday? People make a big deal because it is so late and creates such a problem for teams, fans, blah, blah, blah, but think about it.
In reality there are only about 8 Big Monday games with conference season starting around January and finishing in early March. The Valley has a bigger advantage than the West Coast Conference because pretty much the Big Monday telecasts showcased Gonzaga more than any other team. That would not happen with teams from the Valley. They are more balanced and more teams have made names for themselves over the past two seasons. Drake, Bradley, Wichita State, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Creighton, and (even to a degree) Missouri St. are more recognizable and have made an impact on the NCAA Tournament and any of those teams could be appealing to be on Big Monday. As a result of being balanced like this, there would not necessarily be one team taking up all the telecasts because there are several teams that could be showcased. So at most one team would be in that 11 p.m. slot maybe twice.
The second case for this is attendance. Just from personal experience, some of the biggest crowds and craziest crowds were the late night games as part of Bracketbusters. Fresno St. and the Drexel games both started somewhere between 9 and 11 p.m. and those games were just crazy from a fan standpoint. What a way to have some great promotions for the teams involved during Big Monday–wear you pajamas, late night study group (for those that need to be seen) or maybe a craziest fan contest. The possibilities are endless. It is a way to get fans excited about their team during the conference season since there is a time that fans get into a lull during the conference season. What a way to spruce things up. It also gets the real fans to the arena and can create a more intimidating atmosphere even if there are not as many fans as a “normal” game.
Finally, it is an opportunity for the Valley to get back into the spotlight after a subpar season with Drake being the only representative from the Valley in the NCAA Tourney. The season before, the Valley was on the cusp of taking off and winning over the College Basketball pundits with the showing in the Big Dance, but then got hit with a mack truck this past season. Big Monday could be the extra exposure to get that bus going again. A lot of Valley teams are returning a lot of players and should be better as a conference.
So here is the first vote cast to start the momentum to have the Valley get into talks with ESPN about Big Monday. I know I would go if it were an option.