For four months every fall, Saturdays are dominated by college football. Millions of Americans, free of obligations from school or work, fill stadiums across the country to root on their favorite teams. From crack-of-dawn mimosas in the parking lot for 11:00am kickoffs to emptying the stadium near midnight following primetime affairs, college football owns Saturdays.
But, what happens when gamedays aren't on Saturdays?
Thanks in part to the explosion of televised college sports over the last decade, more and more universities and athletic conferences are shifting the traditional norms of college football in search of more viewers, more exposure, and more revenue. This has led to regular season games playing on virtually every night of the week throughout the course of the season.
The Horned Frogs, for example, will play two more regular season weekday games following tonight's contest in Minnesota. TCU will face West Virginia on Thursday, October 29 before a "Black Friday" contest against Baylor on November 27. This season marks the eighth time in TCU Football history that the team will play at least three non-Saturday games. Only once has a TCU team played - and won - three weekday regular season games in a single season. That feat was accomplished in 1933, when Francis Schmidt's Frogs knocked off Austin College, Daniel Baker, and North Texas State on three consecutive Fridays to open the season.
The increase in non-Saturday games comes as the result of a perfect storm meshing TCU's rise to prominence on the national stage with ESPN's desire to expand college football into a week-long affair. Since Patterson took the reins in 2001, the Frogs have played in 27 non-Saturday regular season games. These contests make up nearly 20% of all regular season games coached by Patterson. And his numbers in those games might surprise you...
Gary Patterson has a 110-27 record in traditional Saturday games, good for an .803 winning percentage. However, in non-Saturday games, Patterson is just 14-13, a winning percentage of .519.
Since being named head coach, Patterson has coached at least one regular season contest on every night of the week. He has coached in 13 Thursday night games, the most of any non-Saturday. Interestingly enough, Patterson's worst day of the week is Thursday (excluding an 0-1 record on Tuesdays), as his teams have gone 5-8 on that day during his tenure.
It is important to note that weekday games are typically featured on national television, and therefore usually provide more intense match-ups and better competition. It is easier to rack up victories on Saturdays than during the week, simply because the odds are higher that a weekday opponent will be stronger than a Saturday opponent. Case in point: seven of Patterson's 13 weekday losses have come by one possession, while another three were against ranked opponents.
With that being said, all is not doom and gloom for Patterson during the week. In fact, some of his biggest wins as TCU's head coach have come on days other than Saturday. Patterson's first three wins over ranked opponents all came during the week - two on a Tuesday and one on a Friday. The Frogs won a thrilling 48-45 double-overtime contest over Northwestern on a Thursday to open the 2004 season. A 23-20 win over Utah on Thursday, September 15, 2005 set the tone for the Frogs in the Mountain West, helping lead the team to a conference championship. The unranked Frogs routed 8th-ranked BYU in Fort Worth on Thursday, October 16, 2008. More recently, the Frogs' Thanksgiving series with Texas has produced back-to-back Thursday night victories in Austin in 2012 and 2014.
Under Gary Patterson, regular season weekday games have become almost commonplace. However, that hasn't always been the case. Weekday games have made a comeback over the last decade after a long absence. For the first six seasons that TCU competed in the Southwest Conference (1923-1928), the final game of the year was played on a Thursday. The Frogs then averaged about one weekday contest per season throughout much of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. However, during a span from 1957-1993, TCU played a total of just three regular season non-Saturday games - all of which were losses, by the way.
Since TCU joined the SWC in 1923, the school has played 968 regular season games. A total of 69 of those games have come on a day other than Saturday. Overall, TCU wins non-Saturday games at a .587 rate, going 39-27-3 in the 69 weekday contests. On Saturdays, the Frogs fare slightly worse historically. TCU is 462-403-34 all time on Saturdays, a .533 winning percentage. Comparatively, the school's overall winning percentage is currently .536 (616-529-57).
The Frogs will play their 70th non-Saturday game in program history tonight, and their 28th under Gary Patterson. Tonight's contest will be the 18th non-Saturday season-opener in TCU history (Frogs are 12-5 in the previous 17), the 11th against a fellow power conference team (Frogs are 6-4 in the previous 10), and the 7th on the road (Frogs are 3-3 in the previous six). Recent history tells us to watch out for these pesky weekday games. However, common sense tells us that the Frogs are the second-ranked team in all the land and will enter the Twin Cities as three-score favorites against the Gophers.