January 8, 2010 9:46:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State has answered ESPN''s call.
When the sports television network expressed an interest in showcasing one of its football games on Thursday night, Mississippi State was willing to accommodate.
MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne announced Thursday that the Southeastern Conference opener against Auburn has been moved to Sept. 9.
It will be the 14th time the Bulldogs have played in ESPN''s Thursday Night game, but the first since 2007.
"Usually these are pretty simple deals," MSU Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Scott Stricklin said. "ESPN contacts you and, in this case, they talked to Greg and indicated it was a game they might want to show and wanted to know if we''d be interested in moving it."
Stricklin said Byrne wanted to make sure everyone at MSU was on board with the idea before moving forward.
"Anytime you host a game like that on a school day with classes in session, you''ve got to have everybody on campus on the same page, make sure they are OK with it and something they wanted to do," Stricklin said. "Greg had all of those conversations on campus, then let ESPN know that we were willing to do it, and we were excited about doing it."
Stricklin said the university doesn''t have to provide much on its end other than "build a football program that''s exciting enough to attract an audience for ESPN on a Thursday night."
The game is sandwiched between the Bulldogs'' season opener at home against Memphis (Sept. 4) and a road game against LSU (Sept. 18).
Byrne is excited about the impact an ESPN Thursday game can make.
In his weekly newsletter to fans, Byrne wrote that history indicates 3.5 and 4 million fans will watch the game.
"That will be tremendous exposure for the city of Starkville, the university, and athletic program," Byrne said.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said in a statement that a Thursday night game was a great way "to show the nation how wonderful the fans are and put on display the passion and excitement around Mississippi State football."
"With the Thursday game, everybody is watching, it''s the only game on, and we can show the country what Mississippi State football is all about," Mullen said.
Four of the first five games for the Bulldogs this fall will be at home.
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