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OSU could not pass up Thursday night offer from ESPN

BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer, Published: September 5, 2011

STILLWATER — In 2009, it was then-third string quarterback Brandon Weeden leading Oklahoma State to a 31-28 comeback win against Colorado.

Last season, it was Shaun Lewis coming up with an interception in the final seconds and Dan Bailey sending a 40-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give the Cowboys a 38-35 victory over Texas A&M.

It's almost become a new tradition at OSU. The Cowboys will play one home game on Thursday night that's televised nationally by ESPN each season. They will wear black uniforms. And things will get wacky.

Whatever mystique now surrounds those Thursday night games might be coincidental. But the reasons for OSU to play on a weeknight in prime time, like the Cowboys will again on Thursday against Arizona, are concrete.

The buzzword thrown out by OSU athletic director Mike Holder and coach Mike Gundy is “marketing.”

“Being the only show on Thursday night, there are a lot of viewers out there,” Gundy said. “And it's not only for our football team, but it's for our university. When that logo's on the screen for three hours…we think is an advantage.”

This season, the Cowboys will be pegged against the NFL's season opener featuring the Packers and Saints. But for a viewer looking for college football, the OSU-UA game will be the only option. Perhaps in 3-D if their TV is equipped.

It's tough to buy that type of national exposure. But in this case, ESPN pays for it.

“ESPN can be very persuasive,” Holder said. “They've got a lot of arrows in their quiver to get you to play on Thursday night. It seems like the more times you say no or maybe not, the better the deal gets. And finally, you just can't say no.”

Playing a weeknight game does come with some costs, though.

Most OSU fans travel to games from outside of Stillwater, which is a bigger hassle during the work week. That also usually means less people participating in pregame festivities, which can cost local vendors. It also creates problems with parking and general crowding on campus because it's a normal class day.

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