Casa Grande Union vs. Desert Edge 11/15/19

Casa Grande Union sophomore quarterback Angel Flores runs for yardage during a 4A state quarterfinal game against Goodyear Desert Edge on Nov. 15 in Goodyear.

More Arizona prep football? Yes, please.

Arizona might never provide the same amount of high school football talent as California, Texas, Florida or Georgia. But it has become more prominent in recent years, and Thursday night games would boost its profile even more.

High school football’s domain has always been Friday nights. But if we have learned anything from the NFL, it’s that the best way to grow your brand is to dominate the calendar.

So instead of having games on just Fridays, why not increase the visibility of your product by taking another day of the week to market your prep football real estate?

The JV Sports Show — I had not heard of it before — is going to broadcast featured Arizona high school football games on Thursday nights during the 2020 season. Its plan is to wait until the Arizona Interscholastic Association picks its Game of the Week, then the show creators will ask the coaches to move the game up to Thursday.

I hope they do well because Arizona prep football has earned more exposure.

My first question was if schools could just move any Friday game up to Thursday without getting approval from the AIA. And the answer is yes, they can.

“Member schools own the rights to the regular season. They can choose when to play their games, as long as both parties agree to terms,” AIA spokesman Seth Polansky said in an email. “Schools can move their game without the AIA’s permission.”

However, Polansky said schools must provide the AIA sufficient notice of the change ahead of time. The notice is needed for the AIA to properly assign officials and so it knows when to expect a final score. Home teams are responsible for providing an official final score to the AIA, which then posts the scores on its website at azpreps365.com.

In theory, a broadcast that features a compelling game on Thursday should draw a good audience. But of course that will depend on the quality of the broadcast.

The Thursday night feature game is not a new idea in Arizona. And previous ventures weren’t highly successful on the broadcast side.

“Cox/YurView did Thursday night games for awhile until a couple seasons ago,” Polansky said. “But waning viewership and sponsors caused them to go Friday only.”

I’m all for promoting Arizona high school football as much as possible. Football is the most popular sport in the country, and it’s not even close. Arizona is producing better players and better teams every year.

But why limit Thursday night games to just the ones chosen for a specific weekly broadcast? I’m not advocating for moving large chunks of the schedule to Thursday. High school football should still be about Friday nights.

But why not have five or six games every Thursday? That would allow outlets like PinalCentral — and others — to provide more content to fans. It would allow us to feature games and players we might not normally feature, and to put a special spotlight on those games.

This will also allow fans to watch games they would otherwise not attend. If fans are going to watch one school every Friday, it means they can’t ever watch other games because those are also played on Fridays, and all games start at 7 p.m.

And how about players? The best players are going to be noticed and recruited, regardless of circumstance. But how about other players who are just overlooked because no one watches or reads about their program?

Additional exposure could mean getting a few extra kids football scholarships. FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA schools need players, too.

Unlike other sports, high school football is limited by placing 99% of its product on one day of the week. The NFL has games on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and occasional Saturdays.

College football is primarily on Saturdays but has expanded its footprint with games on Thursdays and Fridays.

Again, this isn’t about blowing up the current high school football structure. Friday night football is wonderful, and that’s when most of the games should be played.

But I say more football is better, and the way to do that is by adding a few Thursday night games each week.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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