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Published: Saturday, 11/3/2001

Saturday afternoon, 7 nights a week

It occurs to me that college football is heading the way of college basketball.

College football schedules across the country are starting to include games played practically any day of the week. It's all in the name of exposure, baby.

In pursuit of national air time, particularly for the mid-major schools, college football programs are not limiting their schedules solely to Saturday afternoons anymore.

Consider the University of Toledo among the group of pioneering football programs that have made it clear that few days, if any, are off limits for scheduling a game if it means playing before a national television audience.

The Rockets will host Mid-American Conference rival Western Michigan Tuesday night on ESPN - the first time Toledo ever has played a regular-season football game on that night.

Yet it's not the first time for ESPN to air a college game during the middle of the work week. And it won't be the last.

Teams like Toledo and Western Michigan, and conferences like the MAC, are crying out for attention.

UT assistant athletic director/ media relations Paul Helgren admits as much.

“We like to get on television,” Helgren said. “I don't know if 8 p.m. on Tuesdays will always be our choice, though.”

Actually, the Rockets and Broncos have little choice in the matter. They'll play whenever ESPN and other networks ask them to. As the only college football game scheduled on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night, they automatically become the only game of note for that day.

UT's schedule this season included games to be played on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Most of those Rocket games were planned with national TV in mind.

It was in the 1980s when ESPN made a decision to try to supply its viewers with a daily dose of college basketball. The 24-hour sports network was in need of programming. They called it Big Monday, which featured games from the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 broadcast every Monday night during the season. It wasn't long after that when it expanded, and college basketball games could be found on TV every night right up to March Madness. That led to lesser-known conferences and programs getting exposure throughout the week they otherwise wouldn't have received.

I don't think it's too far-fetched to think there will come a time when MAC Mondays and WAC Wednesdays won't refer to the basketball season.

World Series: must-see TV

The New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks have made for compelling prime-time (late-night) television. Exceptional pitching performances, deft glove work, and, of course, late-inning (extra-inning) heroics have kept television viewers tuned into the Series.

Considering the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the Yankees' involvement, Series TV ratings couldn't do anything but go up from last fall's figures for the Yankees and New York Mets clash. The Subway Series, though big in New York, drew a 12.4 rating. It stands as the worst-rated Series of all time.

The Yankees-Diamondbacks series is averaging a 14.4 rating through Game 5, 17 percent better than the Yankees-Mets, which also was on Fox.

With the Series moving back to Arizona after three Yankee victories at home, Game 6, scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start time tonight on Fox (36, 2), rates as must-see TV even on a night not lacking for sports programming.

For Buckeye fans, Ohio State plays at Minnesota tonight on ESPN at 7:45.

Hoop dreams on TV

Basketball junkies searching for more of the pro game on television will find it this winter, courtesy of the NBA, ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Sports Net.

But it won't involve Shaq, Kobe and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Instead, look for the likes of former University of Toledo standout Greg Stempin and Weber State's former one-man scoring arsenal, Harold “The Show” Arceneaux, to appear with the National Basketball Development League (NBDL).

The NBDL is the NBA's new minor league. It was created to help develop and showcase former college and foreign players not quite up to the NBA skill level. It will serve as a talent pool for NBA franchises.

The NBDL also represents more live programming for ESPN and Fox Sports Net. ESPN and ESPN2 are scheduled to televise 24 NBDL games beginning in mid-November and ending in late March of 2002 for the inaugural season. Fox Sports Net has a deal to broadcast 19 games for a league that will consist of eight, 11-man teams based in the Carolinas, Alabama and Georgia.

The NBDL's season-opener will take place on Nov. 16 and will be televised on ESPN2.

Stempin was selected by the Fayetteville (N.C.) Patriots with the first pick in the sixth round (41st overall) during the league's 12-round draft on Oct. 31. Arceneaux was taken in the fourth round (28th) by the Columbus (Ga.) Riverdragons.

However, final rosters for each team will not be announced until Nov. 14.

Donald Emmons is The Blade's sports media columnist. Contact him by e-mail at demmons@theblade.com.

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