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Derek Taylor: Uniform start times could help prep soccer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Most probably wouldn't know Dan Holm if he was standing in front of them at BestBuy purchasing a copy of the final season of Seinfeld on DVD.

But millions felt the influence of the current Executive Creative Director at HolmVideo throughout the 1990s and beyond. After all, it is Holm who - as a promo producer at NBC in 1993 - emerged from a brainstorming session with the term "Must See TV" on his notepad.

Not long after, the term became attached to the network's Thursday night lineup of sitcoms that flat-out dominated TV for, really, more than a decade: Friends, Frasier, Mad About You and the aforementioned "show about nothing" were exactly as advertised, and NBC continued its dominance of CBS and ABC on Thursday nights as it had since the previous decade, when shows like The Cosby Show, Cheers and Family Ties ruled the roost.

There was something about the simple branding that made it easy to remember that four quality shows - not to mention E.R., which followed at 10 p.m. each Thursday - were on the same channel in consecutive order. Ratings increased throughout the 90s after the term was adopted.

Of course, it wasn't the term that increased ratings. It was the quality of programming that was in the same time slot on the same channel over the course of years.

High school soccer fans and the Secondary School Activities Commission would do well to learn this little lesson.

Media preparations for the 2013-14 high school sports year are well under way, and the fact that team soccer schedules supplied to the SSAC are still inconsistent and at times incoherent are indicators that soccer will remain an "up and coming" sport for at least one more year.

It sure hasn't earned its place on the main stage yet.

A considerable reason why that might be is in the utter disorganization of soccer when compared to more established sports; namely football and basketball.

Conflicting start times of games is common. For instance, Nitro's schedule indicates that the Wildcats host Ripley at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 29. Ripley's schedule shows that they play at Nitro at 6:30 p.m. that day.

Almost all of Hurricane's weekday games start at either 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Absolutely none of their opponents who have submitted their 2013 schedules to the SSAC - Capital, Charleston Catholic and George Washington are among those who have not - intend to start a weeknight game against the Redskins before 6 p.m., if their schedules are to be believed.

These inconsistencies are not rare. They are the norm.

Schedules are supplied to the SSAC by the schools themselves. The governing body does not include a scheduling arm that sets start times or seeks out team schedules for the 19 high school sports it regulates.

At least not anymore, it doesn't. Also in the 1990s, the SSAC adopted a universal 7:30 p.m. start time for Friday night football games. Prior to that, host schools set their own start times, with kickoffs able to be manipulated for various reasons such as travel distance.

In the short term, it allowed for an overall improvement in attendance - since it was late enough for fans to get home from work, eat and ready themselves to attend a home game - and it was simpler for media to plan coverage of the events.

Improved media coverage equals increased awareness, which equals increased interest and attendance.

The SSAC granted the right to schools to change their kickoff times to 7 p.m., a move that was initially made to accommodate teams in the Eastern Panhandle that often play schools in Virginia and Maryland, where 7 p.m. kickoffs are the norm. After the restriction was loosened, numerous schools in the Northern Panhandle also moved to a 7 o'clock start time.

Heading into the 2013 season there are 19 teams that will start their Friday night games at 7 p.m.

While the trend seems to be toward earlier start times, the SSAC has not moved to make that a uniform kickoff. It would benefit by doing so.

Soccer, as it is, could stand to do with a little more regulation too. If its fans - easily the most zealous of those sports with SSAC oversight - want it to be taken more seriously, and gain more coverage and awareness, the first step might be to have all the games played at the same time.

If media outlets don't know ahead of time when games are being played, they're not likely to roll the dice on a guess. If fans don't know when an event starts, they're going to find something else to do.

Like stay at home watching NBC.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.taylor@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT


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