(THE PICKET) – Shepherd University is a nationally relevant power in Division II football. The Rams made it all the way to the Division II national championship game this past season, and even though they lost, that should not diminish the 14 consecutive wins they put up to get there. However, the town’s refusal to let the University put in lights to accommodate night games is holding the football program back and preventing the team from ascending to previously unseen heights.
While Saturday has been the traditional day for college football for years, many teams in the Mountain East Conference have started playing games on Thursday nights. This is especially savvy in West Virginia, as, with the state having no professional sports teams of its own, all sporting attention is devoted to the West Virginia Mountaineers, who play on Saturdays in the Big 12 Conference. With the smaller Division II schools of the MEC playing on Thursday, leaving the Mountaineers to rule Saturday, fans are not forced to choose between watching one game or the other, which can only be good for attendance.
WVU scores are often announced at Shepherd games during noon kickoffs, why not separate the two and allow fans to watch both? Shepherd, as a commuter-heavy school, will especially benefit from a weeknight kickoff, as the games will occur during the flow of the school week, before everybody leaves town for the weekend. This can only be good for the attendance and atmosphere at Ram Stadium.
If the town is concerned about the historical integrity of the area, all signs point to the stadium being lit by portable temporary lights rather than permanent fixtures. There is no reason the town cannot grant a dispensation to its rigorous historical regulations for several hours of football lit by non-obtrusive temporary fixtures.
Night games will be a boon to Shepherd’s image, as they bring more media and television exposure, especially if they were to be played on a weeknight among a less crowded college football landscape. Shepherd, despite being a perennial Division II power, suffers from a lack of recognition in the area and beyond. Neither the Washington Post nor the Baltimore Sun covered Shepherd’s national championship bid this past December, despite interim President Sylvia Manning’s assurance before the game that it would “[bring] the university and the town the kind of national exposure it could never get.”
If Shepherd is to continue its football dominance and even improve its lot, the town of Shepherdstown must get with the times and permit night games.
Mike Morris is a staff writer for The Picket and can be reached at email@example.com.