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MSU, Memphis have Thursday game in works

March 25, 2011

Since he took the job at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen has been pushing for a season opener to occur on Thursday night.
After a television scheduling change between Fox Sports Net and the University of Memphis, the Bulldogs third-year head coach will get his wish.
Mississippi State and Memphis have agreed to move the season-opening football game up two days to a Sept. 1 kickoff at the Liberty Bowl.
“We have been contacted by Fox,” Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said. “(MSU athletics director) Scott Stricklin and I have both talked, and we are both in agreement about moving the game.”
Stricklin confirmed Friday afternoon during MSU’s spring practice that while the contract between the two schools and the television isn’t finalized, the principle agreement is in place to move the contest.
“It allows you to start preseason practice a little earlier and then you get that break before your next game so that was a consideration,” Stricklin said. “Because this a road game and not part of the SEC’s television coverage, it assures the game will be on television, which isn’t a guarantee."
Since it’s a Memphis home game, the Tigers administration and the Conference USA office will have to work out the final details with Fox Sports Net before UM is allowed to announce anything official.
Stricklin said Memphis officials contacted MSU about moving the game Wednesday and the process moved quickly from that point.            
Neither school is able to comment about the official time the game will be kicked off but it will be the first time the Bulldogs will open up the season on a Thursday night since 2007 when they were defeated 45-0 at Davis Wade Stadium against No. 2 LSU.
“You weigh that against the fans who may have trouble getting to the game if it’s not on a weekend,” Stricklin said. “The big picture is Dan really wanted to have the game then and when R.C. called me, we were interested in accommodating that.”
Last season MSU opened its season with a 49-7 victory against Memphis in Starkville in route to earning its first New Year’s Day bowl berth since 1999.
“Anytime you can start a season on Thursday night, I think it’s a huge plus," Mullen said. "And here I think we start school before anybody else in the league. So we’ve already been in school for three weeks anyway so any chance we get to move that game up, the better for us."
Mississippi State 17-24-2 in school history during Thursday games and the 2011 slate now includes this season opener and the home opener against LSU on Sept 15 (7 p.m., ESPN) on Thursday night as well.
“It’s always provided good exposure for our school and as an alumn it was always a great time to catch a game on television,” Stricklin said. “When the Ole Miss game was played on Thanksgiving night, I thought that was great exposure. It’s hard to put a value on that kind of opportunity to put your name and brand out there.”
While being questioned about the move Friday afternoon, Stricklin suggested the 2012 slate may have a Thursday night home game as well but declined to include who that opponent would be.

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