For a month now, as college football has attempted to bring back some normal fall vibes in the middle of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, plenty has been missing from the experience.
Packed stadiums. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Tailgates. Lee Corso making his picks live from a campus cresting with anticipation before kickoff. So many things we’ve come to count on as ritual gone, some more replaceable than others.
Around the 2014 season, a wacky West Coast phenomenon took the nation by hold and has since grabbed a place among the sport’s most beloved traditions — and its absence in 2020 has created a gulf in our hearts that simply can’t be filled.
This season, when the prime-time games have completed at around 8 p.m. Pacific and 11 p.m. Eastern, fans across the country have reached for their remotes, thumbed through the guide and found nothing but pure sadness.
Because no “Pac-12 After Dark” means no more college football for another week.
“Night’s over, go to bed,” Anthony Moeglin, a 23-year-old self-described college football junkie in Ohio, said of this new reality.
“Thoroughly depressing,” said Carson Cunningham, a TV sports anchor based in Oklahoma City. “It’s breaking up my routine. I hate it.”
Last Saturday, Cunningham was among the weekly deluge of fans who went to Twitter after the early end of the festivities to air their feelings. “I just scrolled through the channels looking for #Pac12AfterDark…” he said, posting a GIF of actor Steve Carell as Michael Scott from “The Office” nodding slowly and holding back tears.
For Cunningham and others who either work late on Saturdays or are night-owl types, the Pac-12’s decision to postpone its season has been a big blow. All they can do is reminisce about the good old days until Nov. 7, when the league will release more After Dark offerings into what is sure to be another wondrous night.
— Carson Cunningham (@KOCOCarson) October 18, 2020
“It’s amazing for us,” Cunningham said. “It’s midnight, and we’re in the middle of a Pac-12 football game, and we have something to watch while we wind down. It’s become a rite of passage, and typically it’s always a wild game. It’s become its own moniker for a reason.”
Queuing up Netflix or Hulu this fall hasn’t cut it for Cunningham’s ilk.
“For someone like me, who’s busy all day either working or doing stuff with my family, that was always the relaxation game,” said Rob Cassidy, who is based in Miami and covers college recruiting for Rivals. “Everything is quiet. Everyone is in bed. And I can sit down and watch Washington State throw the ball 50 times or whatever’s