There’s an extra buzz in the air as the University of Rhode Island football team prepares for its first home game of the 2019 season.
To sum it all up, let there be light!
Come this Saturday, the Rams will take the field at Meade Stadium against Colonial Athletic Conference opponent Delaware. Per athletic director Thorr Bjorn, the 7 p.m. kickoff marks the first nighttime football contest on the URI campus since the early 1970s. History is set to be made for a program that in 2018 achieved its first winning season in 17 years.
“The entire university is embracing it and there’s excitement in the community. Student affairs has a number of different events planned before the game. Obviously our players and coaches are very excited,” said Bjorn. “Coming off a really fun year coupled with the new construction projects, the level of enthusiasm is certainly greater than I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
Added Rhody head coach Jim Fleming, “The kids recognize the importance of this game. It will be incredibly exciting once the lights get turned on and we get a chance to get underneath them. It will be another step forward in terms of where we want to take this football program.”
The light towers are part of a massive offseason upgrade to Meade Stadium. that was kickstarted thanks to the generosity of two $1 million contributions from two URI alumni. The project also included the installation of a synthetic turf surface. That means saying goodbye to damaged or unrepairable grass by the time November rolls around.
To have not one, but two, night games on URI’s schedule is being hailed as an important achievement. The second under-the-lights contest at Meade Stadium is set for Sept. 28 against Stony Brook, another CAA rival.
“Year-in and year-out, we want to make night games, especially ones at the beginning of the year, the norm. You want to set an expectation of when they’re going to take place, especially in Rhode Island when you factor in all the different family and student activities that we’re competing with. Night games take away all the conflicts that normally take place on a Saturday afternoon,” said Bjorn. “There’s a different level of enthusiasm that comes with playing at night. Plus, from a television standpoint, there are so many different assets and attributes that go along with this.
“To be able to play more than one night game sends a message that ‘Okay, this is how we’re going to handle it,” Bjorn delved further. “You get into October and now you’re talking about homecoming. By November, it’s getting too cold. When the weather is great, that’s our intent.”
In effort to become better acclimated to the new home surroundings, Fleming scheduled several practices under the lights prior to facing the Blue Hens, a team the Rams defeated last season (21-19).
In terms of welcoming potential recruits to campus, Fleming and his staff now have a major selling point when telling prospects that they now have the option of checking out a nighttime college football game in Kingston.
“The problem we have right now is getting enough tickets based on the number of recruits who want to come,” said Fleming. “Kids want to be in an exciting atmosphere. If they’re going to be witnessing this first game, they’re going to see two quality teams go after it on what should be a beautiful fall evening. It should be a memorable time for everyone. If you’re a recruit coming in, you’re going to see the excitement that we’ve been looking to forge over the past several years. Once you get your hands on that excitement, it’s huge in terms of our recruiting.”
Asked if he’s had to field a higher-than-normal volume of ticket requests this week, Bjorn responded, “There are a lot of people asking and definitely plenty of traffic going in and out of the box office [that’s located near the Ryan Center]. Since it’s the first full weekend that the students will be on campus, an absolute capacity crowd is what we’re shooting for.”
Rhode Island is coming off a season-opening 40-21 loss at Ohio last Saturday while Delaware rang in the new season with a 31-13 win over Delaware State.
“It’s always disappointing to lose but we’ve got to put it behind us and great ready for a huge game this weekend,” said Fleming.
Not just a huge game, mind you, but a landmark game for a program that can finally proclaim, “Lights, camera, action!”
URI takes on Delaware under the lights Saturday September 7 at 7pm on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.
2019 YurView Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.