Ohio State football: Gene Smith anxious to review impact of Fox emphasizing noon games

The decision by Fox Sports to emphasize the noon college football viewing window on Saturdays this fall has had a big impact on Ohio State.

That did not come as a surprise because the Buckeyes are a big television draw whether they are playing a powerful program or not.

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Whether this becomes the new normal remains to be seen, but Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith has heard not everyone is happy with the way things have worked out.

“You know, is this a new one for me to just like to fans,” he told the Dayton Daily News earlier this month. “I'm still evaluating Fox's approach. This is new and interesting and something for us to learn from.”

Ohio State and Penn State are scheduled to kick off at noon Saturday, as are the Buckeyes and Michigan next weekend.

That means Ohio State will finish the regular season having played at 3:30 — generally considered the showcase window since the television schedules evolved into their current form — only twice this season.

Ironically neither of those games — at home against Miami (Ohio) in September and at Rutgers last week — were high-profile games so in some ways this has been a bizarro season in Columbus.

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The Buckeyes played a then-ranked Michigan State team under the lights at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 5, but their season-opener (Florida Atlantic) and best nonconference matchup (Cincinnati) were both early kickoffs.

So was the visit from Big Ten West heavyweight Wisconsin on Oct. 26, much to the chagrin of fans who prefer more time to tailgate than noon games allow.

“It's funny, I remember, was it three years ago we were getting killed because we had too many night games,” Smith said with a chuckle, “and now we've got too many noon games, so... You know I don't know what the appropriate mix is. If I was czar I know what I'd do, but the reality is we serve a diverse population. There's a lot of people that hate the noon games. There's a lot of people that love the noon games. A lot of people hate night games, and there's a lot of people that love night games. And there's a lot of people that want 3:30 games.”

Smith said his priority is doing what is best for players, some of whom have gone on record as preferring noon games because they allow for more time to spend with friends and family afterward.

There is also a recruiting aspect as the noon games are harder to get to for prospects who live far away and play on Friday night, something Urban Meyer noted with some dismay when the Buckeyes played frequent noon games in 2012, his first season as head coach.

Ironically, Meyer is now an analyst for Fox Sports and his successor, Ryan Day, has also said he enjoys noon games because they afford him time to spend a full night relaxing with his family.

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The networks, working within the parameters of contracts with the Big Ten, ultimately decide when games will be played, but Smith is interested in reconsidering the way things are when he has a chance.

“I'm anxious to look back at this year when it's all said and done, sit with my colleagues in the Big Ten and talk about it, see what we learned,” Smith said. “Talk to Fox, our partners, see what they learned.”

Then he added with another laugh, “We're getting a lot of feedback from the fans, so we'll have that.”

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