Friday, May 1, 2009

Dancing 'Round The May Pole With A Football

TigerBlog drives past the University League Nursery School on his way in every morning. Each year on this day, he can see the little kids as they do their annual "Dance Around the May Pole," something both TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog did when they attended the school back in the day.

It amazes TigerBlog to see how little time appears to pass between events that come up annually, as another year has flown by. The ULNS May Pole dance is one of those events. Has it really been a year since the last time TB drove by and saw them all lined up?

If years pass that quickly, then surely four months will go by in the blink of an eye. And so why not celebrate May Day by looking ahead to Tiger football 2009 and another annual event here in the Department of Athletics.

Put more simply, let's again ask the question of what is the best time to play home football games.

Princeton has five home games in 2009, beginning Saturday Sept. 19 against the Citadel. The other home games are Saturday Oct. 3 against Columbia, Thursday Oct. 8 against Colgate, Saturday Nov. 31 against Cornell and Saturday Nov. 14 against Yale.

So what are the right start times, keeping in mind that Colgate has been moved to Thursday night at 7 for ESPNU and that the Yale game is etched in stone at 1 pm unless TV comes in at the last minute? The Citadel and Columbia games figure to be when the weather is still very nice, though last year's Nov. 7 Friday night game against Penn was played in 65 degree temperatures.

The Cornell game is being played on Halloween. How does that impact the start time?

Let's start with the Columbia game. Logic suggests that good weather + youth sports during the day + nice stadium with lights = 6 pm start. Or at least 3 pm start. What does history teach us? Let's look at the last three Princeton-Columbia games at Princeton Stadium, all played on the same weekend and all, according to the box score, played in weather ranging from "nice" to "sunny" to "very pleasant."

The 2007 game was a 3:30 start. Attendance was 7,926.

The 2005 game was a 1:00 start. Attendance was 8,835.

The 2003 game was a 6:00 start. Attendance was 8,575.

So what can we conclude? Who knows? The 1:00 game had the best attendance, slightly better than the 6:00 start. The 3:30 start, which seems like a good time as well, was nearly 1,000 fans behind the 1:00 start.

If your average trick-or-treater is going in the late afternoon or evening, and your average Pop Warner season is over by Halloween, then 1:00 is probably a good time for Cornell.

And what would you do about Columbia? Try 6:00 again and see what happens?

Then multiply this out by every other sport and factor in shared facilities, overlapping events, marketing and corporate sponsorship tie-ins, and scheduling becomes incredibly difficult.

In the end, Princeton will figure out a start time for the Columbia game - and the other remaining ones - with all the best intentions of maximizing attendance across alums, students, local families, faculty/staff members and anyone else who wants to come.

And then it'll probably rain anyway.

No comments: