Central/Western game returns to weekend

The Central/Western football game will not be on a weekday next season.

"It's going to be a standard weekend, Saturday afternoon (game)," said CMU Athletics Director Dave Heeke.

CMU brought up the issue of midweek Mid-American Conference games a week after it played Western Michigan on a Tuesday in Kalamazoo last season. The university sent a letter saying it no longer wanted to play midweek MAC football games.

Heeke said the football team will play two midweek games next season, one at home and one on the road.

Central and Western had a two-year contract with ESPN to air the rivalry game on a weeknight. However, both declined to renew the contract after it expired this year.

The full schedule will be announced in the next few weeks, he said.

At last month's MAC meetings, school officials approved a motion allowing faculty athletic representatives to be part of the group that discusses future contracts with ESPN at the group's winter meetings.

Kevin Love, faculty athletic representative, said being a part of the discussions and seeing the contract's potential effects is what they wanted.

"That's all we were asking for, is give us an opportunity to be consulted in the process. So that we can do our little hemming and hawing over what is the impact on academics here, what is the student athlete welfare, (and) what is the impact on campus culture from those changes, Love said."

The MAC meetings, which took place in late January, involved faculty athletic representatives, senior athletic directors and athletic directors.

Each group met in their own meetings, and on the final day, they collectively met in what is called a joint session. The issue was part of the faculty athletic representative's schedule during their separate meetings; they then brought the issue to the joint session.

"It is during the joint session that there are proposals for discussion and then voting as far as changing MAC policies," Love said.

When the current contract was signed with ESPN in 2003, the faculty athletic representatives were not consulted before the deal was signed.

"The deal was presented to the joint committee long after it was done," said James Ruebel, faculty athletic representative for Ball State. "There was no input to the decision from the faculty perspective. And the faculty athletic reps had a largely negative response to the fact that there would be a lot of midweek games in November."

The contract runs through 2009 with an option for 2010.

Heeke said the MAC will discuss the option for 2010 during the 2009 season.

Love said after CMU came out with the statement, the athletics department did a missed class analysis of all its sports to see if football players missed more class than other sports. The results showed that football players missed far less class than most sports.

He said, however, football games have more of an impact on the entire campus, not just on the student athletes.

"Football games - home football games bring in so many fans," Love said. "What other sport on our campus brings in 20,000 people? We just don't have one. It has a significantly greater impact on our campus culture, especially on the weekends. We have a lot of events scheduled around those (games)."



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