Friday night lights presents a conflict
September 5, 2005
Come Friday night, Mike Rippee will be focused on his job as head football coach when the Douglas High football team takes the field to play McQueen in Reno. At the same time, a piece of his heart will be a few miles up the road at Mackay Stadium, where his son, Luke, will suit up in a University of Nevada uniform for the first time in the Wolf Pack’s season opener against Washington State.
Luke Rippee, a redshirt freshman, is expected to see action on special teams in a Friday night special being televised on ESPN. For his father, the decision of choosing a game to be at isn’t difficult, yet it’s still a tough one.
“I never miss any of Luke’s games,” said Rippee, who has been head coach at Douglas since 1985, the year Luke was born. “But my commitment is to Douglas and Luke understands totally. This is a chance for Luke to go out and be in a Wolf Pack uniform for the first time and that will be tucked back in my mind. But I’m not going to cheat these kids, once we get into the game, my attention will be focused on what’s happening on the field.”
Other prep games are scheduled for that same night. Among the local matchups, Wooster plays at Galena, Quincy (Calif.) visits Fernley and Incline visits Yerington. Carson plays on Saturday against Bishop Manogue in Reno.
Douglas (1-1) and McQueen (2-0) will be one of the night’s marquee prep games between programs that go to the playoffs year-in and year-out.
“I don’t know how much Washington State will cut into our crowd, but that’s just the way it goes,” coach Rippee said.
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“I’m kind of an old fashioned guy who is used to the way things used to be. Friday nights were made for high school football, Saturdays were for the colleges and Sundays were for the NFL. But that’s the nature of the game anymore because football is on seven days a week now, and old dinosaurs like me just have to get used to that.”
Friday night college football on the tube was a concept ESPN conceived several years ago, to the delight of college football fans everywhere, but to the dismay of those who follow high school football and find themselves faced with having to decide between games to watch.
Donnie Nelson can see both sides of the issue, both as assistant director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and as a Nevada graduate.
“I understand where the university is coming from and I think most people are understanding that this is a good opportunity for them to bring in revenue and to get exposure on ESPN,” Nelson said.
“Overall, the university has been good to the NIAA over the years as far as allowing us to use Mackay Stadium and Lawlor Events Center for our championship events. So I think everybody wants to try and help them out and I think everybody wants to see them do well, especially against a Pac-10 team like Washington State.”
Rippee understands the situation all too well. While Luke is playing for coach Chris Ault at Nevada today, Mike played for Ault-coached teams at Mackay Stadium in the mid-1970s.
“I think we all need to work together,” coach Rippee said. “I realize this is an option UNR had to take. You have to do what’s best for your program. To run a big program, you’ve got to have money, and they’re also getting exposure on national television.”
Concerns have been heard in some communities – Las Vegas and Fresno being just two examples – when university programs have taken up more than one Friday night slot during a season .
“I don’t think people are excited to see them playing on Friday nights,” Nelson said of the Wolf Pack. “They understand where the university is coming from, but I do think a lot of people would be disappointed if they were to play multiple Friday night games.”
Speaking of multiple games, what about the possibility of a high school-college double header at Mackay Stadium?
“There was talk of offering a high school game as part of a double header on a Saturday night, but that never came about,” Rippee said. “I would be more than willing to do that. I think it would be nice for everyone. It would be nice for our kids to get to play at Mackay and it would be nice for the fans to get to see two games at a nice venue. And then, there wouldn’t be a choice to make.”
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