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Cougs’ opener picked up by ESPN

PULLMAN – The hiring of coach Mike Leach continues to pay dividends for the Washington State football program.

The Cougars’ season-opening game at Brigham Young was already teeming with storylines. Now, the entire country will be able to tune in, as WSU announced Wednesday that the game has been moved to a 7:15 p.m. Pacific start on Thursday, Aug. 30, and will be broadcast nationally by ESPN.

It’s the second of WSU’s three nonconference games to be picked up by ESPN, and the third game on the Cougars’ schedule to be played during the week. They travel to Las Vegas for a Friday game against UNLV on Sept. 14 (also on ESPN), and host Washington in the Apple Cup the day after Thanksgiving.

WSU athletic director Bill Moos had said in multiple radio interviews that he expected the BYU game to be moved to a Thursday, so Wednesday’s announcement came with little surprise.

And it’s no wonder why it was an attractive option for ESPN as part of its season-opening doubleheader – not only is it Leach’s official return to coaching after a two-year hiatus, but it comes against his alma mater.

“It couldn’t have worked out better for us,” Moos told The Spokesman-Review.

“This markets our program and our university on a national stage and allows us to showcase a new product that not only our fans, but football fans across the country are eager to see,” Moos added. “So I don’t think you could paint a better picture.”

The new Pac-12 television deal with ESPN and Fox will require each school to play a Thursday or Friday game “most probably once out of every two years,” Moos said. And though the Cougars have three such games scheduled in 2012, they come at fairly opportune times – and in opportune locations.

Moos pointed out that playing the season opener two days earlier gives coaches more time to plan in between the first and second weeks, which is viewed by most coaches as the most important in-season period for film evaluation.

And WSU playing its non-Saturday games on the road also lessens the burden on fans, most of whom have to travel two hours or more to get to Pullman on game days.

“That’s difficult on a Thursday, especially,” Moos said.

WSU’s last appearance on ESPN came during the 2006 season.

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