Very interesting news from the NCAA today, which announced a shift in the start times at the lacrosse final four starting next spring.
The Saturday semifinals, which have started at noon in recent years, won’t get underway until 4 p.m. That means the second game won’t start until 6:30 at the earliest, and probably not until closer to 7.
The Monday title game, which not that long ago got underway around 11 a.m. and was a 1 p.m. start the last few years, will begin at 3:30 p.m.
The culprit? Part of it is the Four-Letter Network, and part of it is the NCAA seeking to provide a better platform for the sport – i.e. a time when people are more likely to be around a TV than sitting at the beach on a holiday.
Those early starts were fun while they lasted. But ultimately, this is the right move for a sport that until this year had steadily built up its in-stadium audience base for its championship weekend in the last decade.
Just as college lacrosse outgrew a Memorial Day weekend in a college stadium, it also has moved past having all of its action wrapped up before 5 p.m. in its showcase event.
This is a move toward the sort of thing ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich has advocated for some time – a prime-time conclusion to the season. Can’t say that’s a great thing for deadlines (although an evening flight out of Providence the last two years provided an artificial deadline, anyway), but it’s undoubtedly good for the sport that its earned a place for the final four on TV later in the day.