Primarily, the atmosphere of 3:30 and 8:00 kickoffs is superior to that of the noon kickoffs. At noon, it almost appears as if the fans are asleep in their seats. We were historically loud for USC in 2009 and Nebraska in 2012 (both night games). The anticipation for the game builds all day on Saturday and by 8:00, the fans are more than ready to support the team. Watching noon games on television often feels underwhelming because the crowd just is not as enthusiastic as they are in the late afternoons and evenings.
All of our favorite instant classic games recently started at 3:30 or 8:00. The noon starts always blend together, but I clearly remember 2009 against the USC, 2009 against Iowa in overtime, 2010's 2nd half comeback win against Pennsylvania State, 2011's last minute win against Wisconsin, 2012's offensive explosion against Nebraska, and the decimation of Penn State in 2013. The best game against Michigan in recent memory also happened to be the only one that did not kickoff at noon.
While you may argue that these moments are special because they are rare, I believe we could produce even more special moments with more opportunities to create them by playing games later in the day.
As for another argument against playing later games, are we really going to follow the argument that it is too cold in November to have night games? The NFL does it into January and no one complains that it is too cold. High Schools have night games well into November for playoff games and you never hear a complaint from the fans about the cold. Those things make Midwest football what it is, Green bay, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, the cold, the drama, the buildup.
While fan safety should always be a priority, I believe the city of Columbus and the fine police officers patrolling the streets do a marvelous job of keeping fans safe and comfortable during later kickoffs.
Urban Meyer himself addressed the issue of recruiting, and I feel it cannot be stressed enough. Night or late afternoon games are the best (and sometimes the only) times for four or five star recruits to visit the campus. Meyer made a great point that many recruits are traveling with their own money and played a high school game the previous Friday. It presents a problem of expanding the Ohio State brand to a national audience if a significant portion of that audience is unable to even watch your team play. Give Ohio State the chance to recruit these players and bring them for visits. Show them the best product we can put on the field by giving them access to a night game in the Horseshoe.
For the fans attending the game, the tailgating experience is infinitely better for later games. It simply feels strange to grill hot dogs, hamburgers, bratwursts, ribs, and other tailgating foods beginning at 8 am. Such foods are much more comfortable on the palate at noon or afterward. The local establishments are able to serve to a larger crowd for longer, and therefore increase their revenue as well.
The athletic department has even essentially admitted that night games are more valuable, as evidenced by the ticket price increases for evening games against prime match ups. Our fans will continue to support the Ohio State football team, and I expect fans will gladly pay the increased price to see the team play in the finest stadium in the country in the greatest atmosphere. Essentially, we have a huge alumni and fan base spending astronomical amounts of money and we would love to see the athletic department fight on our behalf to schedule later kickoffs.
The TV networks will always have a significant amount of power in dictating who plays when, but Ohio State is the premier brand in the Midwest and I feel that the Big Ten Network and ESPN would rather Ohio State play more games at later start times to increase viewership. Last year Ohio State played Michigan at noon in what turned out to be a classic while a bad Northwestern team played a worse Illinois team at 3:30. I understand the competition for time slots, but I believe Ohio State-Michigan is a premier draw and will draw increased attention at any later time slot, regardless of whether Alabama is playing at the same time. If we have some degree of influence in this situation, then we must use it to maximize our fan experience and competitive advantage. Prime-time match ups increase television exposure and increased exposure is good for Ohio State.
With that being said, I'm a fan of tradition as well. I understand doing things as they have been done for the sake of pageantry. Honoring traditions is something that sets Ohio State apart from some of the newer powers. Wayne Woodrow Hayes would be rolling over in his grave at the thought of playing Michigan at any time other than noon. I apologize for that. But I'm not arguing that we should abandon the old traditions for any of the reasons I listed above, I merely feel that we can build upon the traditions and add to them as times change and the national audience evolves.