Tom Olson said he has had season tickets for 50-plus years, “and this is the first year that I’ve just left before the end of games.’’

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The Utah-Washington football game Saturday night was a tight one throughout. Neither team led by more than a touchdown, the lead changed hands several times, and the score was tied three times before the Huskies won 33-30 on Tristan Vizcaino’s last-second field goal.

Not that every fan who went to the game was still at Husky Stadium to see the field goal. Many of the announced 65,767 fans were no longer in their seats for the fourth quarter.

Instead, they were heading home. After all, it was around 10 p.m.

“You want to know how many years I’ve had (tickets)? Fifty-five years. And look, I’m leaving to try to get home,’’ said Barbara Phillips, who left early because she had to get up at 5 the next morning for work. “It’s a close game. That’s stupid. And it’s not fair to me. I support the UW. We give a lot of money to the UW. And I’m sorry that TV is now regulating football games.

“It’s just not fair to us. We never had this before. And a lot of people aren’t coming to the games because of it.’’

She is by no means alone in this view. Of the more than 30 people interviewed at Saturday’s game, the majority said they dislike the later starts.

Said Daniel Burnett of the many night games this season: “I hate it, hate it, hate it.’’

Because game times are dictated by the TV networks that pay enormous sums to college conferences for the broadcast rights, Pac-12 kickoff times vary, and this year has seen many night UW games.

The only UW game this year that started at what used to be the normal 12:30 p.m. time was against UCLA on Oct. 28. All the other games have begun at 5 p.m. or later. Seven games started between 6:30 and 8 p.m.

Tom Olson said he has had season tickets for 50-plus years, “and this is the first year that I’ve just left before the end of games.’’

In early October, Husky coach Chris Petersen told fans he was sorry about the late starts, even though UW and the other schools do not select the game times.

“We apologize for these late games,’’ he said. “And I’d also like to reiterate it has nothing to do with us or the administration. We want to play at 1 o’clock.’’

Despite not liking the late starts, the fans interviewed Saturday went to the game, because they still want to see the Huskies play. The question is how many more fans would have been there had the game kicked off earlier.

The Huskies are averaging 68,415 fans this season, nearly 4,000 more than last season, and with the Apple Cup crowd it will be close to the highest average since 2003. That makes sense, because the Huskies are coming off a spectacular 2016 season in which they reached the College Football Playoff. Yet, Washington has had just five sellouts since reopening Husky Stadium in 2013 — two this year, counting the upcoming Apple Cup. Even this season they are averaging roughly 3,000-5,000 fewer fans a game than they did in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Why the drop? Husky Stadium holds roughly 2,000 fewer fans since its 2013 renovation. Washington also didn’t play well for a long stretch, even going 0-12 in 2008. Lesser-known nonconference opponents do not always entice fans, either.

And there is the differing game times.

One man selling tickets outside the stadium said game times have affected him drastically. “The night games at 7 o’clock are terrible. … The fans don’t want to come late.’’

Weather a factor

The Husky basketball team plays many of its games at night, so why are the later start times an issue for football fans? One reason is basketball games are played inside. Football games are outside, and night games in October and November can be cold and rainy.

As Bobby Johnson said while leaving the Utah game near the start of the fourth quarter. “I don’t care if it’s a close game, I’m ready to go. I’m cold. I’m freezing. I’m tired.’’

On top of that, the kickoff time often isn’t announced until two weeks before the game. Networks such as FOX and ESPN have clauses in their contracts with the Pac-12 that allow them to wait until then so they can pick a preferred matchup for their time slot. They also can exercise a “six-day window” clause that allows them to wait until six days before the kickoff to pick. The Huskies were not informed of kickoff times until six days before four home games this season.

“If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Washington fan, you make adjustments,” longtime fan Mic Wuestenhoefer said, adding he and his family will go whenever the game is. “But obviously, the more lead time you have, the better off you can plan. … This has only happened in the last couple years, that these times haven’t been known. Usually they’re printed on the tickets when you get them. But the last couple years they haven’t been printed on the tickets. So you don’t know when it’s going to happen.”

Tough to plan

Saturday | 5 p.m. | FOX

That makes planning difficult. When will the game actually start? Will you be able to do something else during the day or during the night? Planning your calendar is not easy, especially if you don’t live in Seattle. Having to drive home (or take a ferry) for a couple hours after a game that ends around 10:30 or 11 is not pleasant.

“I don’t know why they don’t tell us (the game time) at the beginning of the season. Or even a couple weeks ahead would be nice. But the week before? It’s frustrating and hard to make plans,” said Miranda Norman, a resident of Longview, which is at least a two-hour drive from Husky Stadium — and more if you’re dealing with postgame traffic.

Tight end Will Dissly’s family and relatives travel from Bozeman, Mont., to see him play, a 10-hour drive from Seattle. They would prefer afternoon games.

“It makes it hard on the fans,’’ Paul Dissly said. “For the people who have to travel here, it makes it tough on them. They have to come late and get home late. We know we have a place to stay because we have a motel. But those guys have to get home and fight the traffic. It has to be tough on local fans, too.’’

“When you’re traveling, it makes it expensive,’’ Lois Dissly said. “You might have to pay an extra motel night.’’

Getting home an issue

Bill Jarrell, a season-ticket holder since 1983, said a good friend who lives on Whidbey Island stopped buying season tickets because he didn’t think he would be able to catch the ferry home after the late games. Jarrell also said not knowing game times earlier in the season is a problem, including road games.

“I used to travel to a lot of the away games, but now you don’t know when the game is,” he said. “It’s hard to plan your flights, it’s hard to plan in a two-week period. I wish it was just like the old days.”

Some fans don’t mind the late starts. After all, a night game can be more convenient if you work during the day or are parents with children who have morning and afternoon activities.

“I think it’s fine,” UW student Jason Yan said. “As a student, I have plenty of things to do during the day, homework, going into town, wanting to do something. But for people at home, families that want to watch the game, that’s definitely something that would be an inconvenience, for sure.”

Brendan McKinnon says he will go to a game at any time, even 3 a.m. Still, he knows late starts are an issue.

“I don’t care when the game time is, but when I have two extra tickets and I have to call 10 people to see if they want to go with me and they all say no because it’s a 7:30 game — it’s unbelievable,” he said. “ … Because they have family, they have kids, and they can’t be out until midnight or whatever. It’s hard to get a baby-sitter to stay up until midnight.’’

‘This is too much’

Todd Bogardus says he has missed only seven Husky home games since 1980. He is retired and says he doesn’t mind the late times — but there might be too many of them. “I’m a Husky fan, I’ll sacrifice. I’ll go. You have to suffer for the Dawgs. But it’s too much.”

Bogardus lives on the Key Peninsula and says if the game ends around 11, he won’t get home until 1:30 or 2 a.m.

“I’m retired, so it doesn’t bother me as much, but the fact remains that that’s kind of crazy, especially if you have younger kids,” he said.

“If they spread it out more where other Pac-12 schools did this or we had it that … we want two (night) games a year. … This is too much for Washington to always have these late games.”

Saturday’s Apple Cup has a 5 p.m. start, which will be better for these fans. And as Bogardus and other fans hope, perhaps next season TV networks will spread the night games around the conference a little more.

Said Phillips as she walked away from the Utah game: “It will be interesting to see what they do next year, because I just can’t take these night games.’’

Late shows
The Huskies have had the most night games in the Pac-12 this season.
School 5 p.m. or later starts
Washington 11
Arizona 10
Stanford 9
Washington St. 8
Arizona St. 8
Utah 8
Cal 7
Colorado 6
Oregon 6
Oregon St. 4
Source: Times staff