Bearkat football to kickoff early on ESPN

As part of ESPN’s new event “FCS Kickoff,” Sam Houston State football will begin their season Aug. 23 against Eastern Washington.

The two teams will be the only squads competing on this day.

The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 13 but was moved up to give college football an earlier kickoff, its earliest start in 11 years.

ESPN is giving more exposure to the FCS through this premiere kickoff after previously only broadcasting playoff games and the championship with select regular season games airing.

“We saw the opportunity, saw the need and desire from a programming perspective, and we feel like we can get a significant audience for this game,” Brent Colborne, ESPN’s Director of Programming for NCAA championships, said to USA today. “Come August 23, right before Labor Day, people are starving for college football. People are ready for football. This is a really cool opportunity to serve those fans.”

ESPN chose the Bearkat-Eagle match for its opening game because of the teams’ dominance in FCS and already scheduled contest for the 2014 season.

Moreover, the teams sparked a rivalry after SHSU eliminated Eastern Washington with a 45-44 win the 2012 FCS semifinals. Then the Bearkats went on to defeat the Eagles in the 2013 season 49-34.

With SHSU and Eastern Washington kicking off a week before every other school, the teams will begin practices sooner than their peers.

Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett and Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton sent a waiver to NCAA to allow the schedule change before receiving the nod from every other commissioner in the FCS.

The game is set for 2:30 in Cheney, Washington with coverage on ESPN.

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