There is nothing I love more than GAME DAY in Chapel Hill …but… You want my take on Game Day in Chapel Hill? IT HAS TO GET BETTER. The two biggest things, other than abstract things like ticket prices and tailgating setup, are winning and game times. Winning breeds good game times, good game times breed more people in the stands, more people in the stands breed rocking home games and rocking home games in Kenan breed more wins.
There is a part of the game time scheduling in Kenan that I think has just been out of UNC’s hands, the ACC and ESPN have for some reason kept UNC from playing night time games on Saturday’s in Kenan. But lets look past that for a second. Simply put noon kickoffs are just another football game, 3:30 or night time kickoffs create an event a special event.
I have been in Kenan for every kickoff time you can imagine. Nothing and I mean nothing compares to Kenan lit up at night with 60,000+ looking on. There is a week sometimes month long build up to a late afternoon or night game in Kenan. It is a special place and it needs to start being blessed with special games again. The Miami game in 2004 and the Thursday night game against Florida State come to mind as some of the most special atmospheres I have been able to experience in Kenan. The buzz around Chapel Hill for those types of games creates one of the most amazing college game day experiences in football and it attracts more fans. UNC must have that more. It not only impresses recruits in the stadium but it is also impressive on National TV. Even though Kenan seats far less than most SEC stadiums it gets crazy and is just as special for big time late games.
To get these games UNC must win but not just win win at the right time against the right people. While UNC has been winning it is winning more when it matters less in terms of game time scheduling. I could make a strong argument that UNC would have had far fewer noon kickoffs this year had they won their ACC opener against Wake Forest. That is something UNC hasn’t done in years and MUST do in order to get the late kickoffs that fans crave.
Even if UNC were to lose 3-4 games in a year they would do themselves and fans a ton of favors by losing later rather than earlier. Part of it too is UNC has to have their opponents hold up a bit of their end by being pretty good as well. However, the ACC gets a certain amount of late games and someone has to play in them if UNC is winning and winning early ESPN will have no choice but to slot them in later time slots. (Obviously we would all like to see UNC win early and late)
I know for a fact Bubba Cunningham is doing all he can to bring a Thursday night game back to Kenan but other than that he has very little control over UNC’s game time kickoffs. ESPN makes those determinations, I would argue UNC is a big draw. Being bowl eligible again next year should help add some interest to UNC in the eyes of ESPN (something I think hurt the Heels a ton this year in terms of game times). There are hundreds of other things fans can think of to improve UNC’s game day atmosphere and hopefully UNC will do all they can to accomplish those.
At the end of the day though later kickoffs usually mean more fans and more intensity. If UNC wants to play in prime time they must take care of business especially early in the season. Good game times next year start with a great performance in Columbia, South Carolina. A win there would certainly make TV executives take notice and at the end of the day that is what it is all about.