*This article is intended for non Wyoming fans or those that don't live in Wyoming. If you grew you in Wyoming you are well well aware of the info in this article.
After posting up the the MWC Roundtable just yesterday it got me thinking again about other reasons why the current Mountain West TV deal is so good for Wyoming. People say that they would love to be on ESPN and gain that exposure but a contract with the world wide leader would not favor a school like Wyoming. Admittedly the Cowboys are not a big time program in a "power conference" like the SEC or Big 10.
There is not as much national appeal so that means that ESPN would force the Mountain West to play weekday football ranging anywhere from Tuesday to Friday night. This season every game that Wyoming plays lands on a Saturday and at least nine games will be broadcast, eight on the Mtn. and the Nebraska game will be shown on Versus (NBC Sports).
Only one game is certain to not be broadcast which is the season opener against Weber State. That is a home game but the opener against an FCS has never really been broadcast anyways. At least they are televising the Texas State home game the next week. The two other games that are in question at Bowling Green and at Utah State. The WAC and MAC both deal with ESPN and it is not expected that either will be broadcast which is what happened last year when Wyoming played at Toledo.
Let's get back on track here. So why is Saturday football important? Well for the home games it is crucial, road games don't really matter except it is harder for fans to travel. The big factors that require home games on Saturday in Wyoming are population density and weather.
Unless you are incredibly geographically challenged you probably know that Wyoming is a very large state with a small population. In fact it is the 10th largest state with over 96,000 square miles and then you combine that with the smallest population of any state: just 563,626 (we're coming after you Vermont!). That leaves a population density of 5.6 people per square mile. With is ranked 49th but crushes Alaska which comes in at a miniscule 1.2 inhabitant per square mile.
The population is also spread all across the state without a very large central metropolitan area. Cheyenne is 50 miles east and boasts the largest population of any city at 59,466. Next up is Casper that has 55k and is roughly a three hour drive on a narrow mountain highway. After Laramie (30k) the next two largest cities are Gillette at 29k and Rock Springs with 20k. It's over a four drive from Gillette to Laramie and over three hours from Rock Springs.
So what does this all mean? Basically a large portion of Wyoming fans will have to be traveling at least a couple hours one way just to see the game. There are plenty of fans from Colorado who will also drive at least a couple hours up to Laramie. Most Saturday games start at noon which leaves plenty of time to drive home safely after the game.
Trying to get a large crowd to drive eight hours round trip on a Thursday night in November is a recipe for failure. Driving during the daytime is always safer especially when you factor in other big issue that affects Wyoming.
Doing you not like the current weather in Wyoming? Well lucky for you it will probably change very quickly OR it may get even worse. Once the calender hits October the weather is an absolute crap shoot for most of the Front Range. At 7220 feet mother nature is especially fickle. Sweet sunshine can turn into a raging blizzard in a matter of moments. Also the mercury tends to linger very low the later in gets in the year. At night it will plunge even below zero fairly often. These chilly temps aren't conducive to standing in open air football stadiums for hours at a time.
So a weeknight game would result in very low attendance due due to long travel times and bone chilling tempratures. Then the hearty souls that did attend may be taking great risks trying to get home. Highway closures are common place during the winter and accidents can happen quickly when the weather changes.
So the combination of a spread out population and adverse weather conditions mean there is no reason for Wyoming to play a home game on a weeknight. Attendance is always larger on Saturdays and the Wyoming home football games and Saturday afternoons are a perfect combination that do not need to be messed with. Thanks to current TV deal Wyoming fans can always see their beloved Pokes play home games on Saturday.