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Landon: Later start time not gonna help at 'Classic'

Jan. 19, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

Nobody can force fans to attend games.

Sports don't work that way.

If fans want to see a team play, they'll come. If they don't, they won't.

It really is that simple.

That's why the change in starting times for Wednesday's annual Capital Classic featuring games between the Marshall men's and women's basketball teams against the squads from West Virginia University is so asinine.

In the past, the Marshall-WVU women's game began at 5:30 p.m. in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. Then, the Marshall-WVU men's game followed at 8 p.m.

But this year there has been a time change.

Daylight Savings Time?

Nope.

Women's Attendance Savings Time.

Or so the WVU powers-that-be hope.

The Mountaineers' athletic administration got the not so bright idea of moving the tip-off of the women's game ahead one hour to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Which also meant moving up the Marshall-WVU men's game until 9 p.m.

The reason?

WVU is hoping the later starting time will coerce more fans into watching the Mountaineers' nationally ranked women's team play.

That notion is totally illogical, of course.

Any fans that really want to see the Mountaineer women play Marshall will be at the game no matter what the starting time is.

The game could be played at noon and there wouldn't be an appreciable difference in attendance from a 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. start.

Again, the reason?

Fans can't be forced to attend.

If they want to be there, they'll find a way. If they don't? They'll find a way.

That's why this special interests move that inconveniences so many is ridiculous.

Now, to be fair, WVU didn't make this move on its own. The idea did indeed originate with the Mountaineers, but Marshall's athletic department did sign off on it.

The catch, however, is that happened when Marshall was between athletic directors. New MU athletic director Mike Hamrick never would have agreed to the later tip-offs.

"I'm a little uncomfortable with the 9 o'clock starting time," said Hamrick. "I'm new here and I really didn't know anything about it. I guess it happened before I got here."

Let me crawl out on a very sturdy limb and predict the usual 5:30 and 8 p.m. starting times will be back in place for the 2011 Capital Classic.

But that doesn't help the situation Wednesday.

As it was, the finish of the Marshall-WVU men's game was late. Now, it is too late.

Even Conan O'Brien would agree.

The irony is collegiate athletic administrators love to throw around the term student/athlete. Well, where is their concern for the student/athletes in this time change?

Remember, Wednesday is a school night.

But, now, Marshall's team won't be back in Huntington until 1 a.m.,Thursday, at the earliest. And the Mountaineers won't pull into Morgantown until 2:30 a.m. or later.

I know Marshall coach Donnie Jones isn't happy about that. And I'm guessing WVU's Bob Huggins isn't too thrilled, either.

"We also have two bus loads of students coming to the game," said Hamrick.

Besides all that, imagine the inconvenience for fans who want to bring their children on a school night.

"We had to have that discussion at our house," admitted Jones, who has three young kids. "We finally gave in and are letting them go."

Those are the problems this time change created.

All because of the inane notion: "If we delay it, they will come."

That just works in cornfields.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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