Friday night football? There are 'lots of possibilities'

Talk about night football games continues to churn to the point where Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is soliciting input about playing Friday night games. Hey, it’s all about the almighty TV dollar, in case you didn’t know.

We have seen some schools in recent years play season-opening games on Friday nights, including Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan State.

ESPN currently airs games on Friday nights, but they typically are unappealing contests from lesser leagues. San Jose State vs. Utah State doesn’t really move the needle, if you know what I mean.

The Big Ten could step in and own Friday night. Make it the league’s own: “Friday Night Big Ten Football.” Get a title sponsor. Write a theme song. Hire an A-team announcing crew. Lots of possibilities.

I am sure a TV network would play handsomely for such a package, just as we have seen the networks dole out massive sums of loot to the NFL for its Monday, Thursday and Sunday night TV packages.

The Big Ten is leaving a lot of money on the table sticking to a largely traditional TV scheduling format of Saturday games. The league should schedule a package of attractive Friday games, and put the product on the table for networks to bid on, and go from there.

The kicker: EVERY Big Ten school has to take part. That means Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska have to play a Friday night home game. You can’t make Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and the like play more than once at home on a Friday night. If the entire league is going to benefit from a Friday night package, then the entire league has to accommodate and be flexible.

If the prospect of more exposure and money isn’t enough for the Big Ten, here’s more motivation: If the Big Ten sits idle on such an idea, the SEC and its new network may run with such an idea.

Just a thought.

It’s time for some outside-the-box thinking to stretch the Big Ten brand and deepen its pockets in this ever-competitive TV sports market.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.

Find out more about:

55 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (55 Comments)
daving313 on 2/25/2014 @ 4:46pm EST Said:

Problem is attendance for fans coming from out of town. These schools have large midwest fan bases that don’t mind making a long drive on Friday night or Saturday morning. But when you ask fans to take time off work, that’s going a bit far. The traveling fans make up a big chunk of people going to the games (i.e. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State fans coming out of Chicago, etc.)

The schools doing the Friday night games have much more local fanbases and can accomodate Friday night games.

Eric Eaton on 2/25/2014 @ 5:02pm EST Said:

Friday night’s need to stay reserved for High School football in the Midwest, especially in Indiana where it owns Friday night’s in the fall!

Kyle on 2/25/2014 @ 5:16pm EST Said:

Friday night should be reserved for High School football ONLY!!!! People aren’t going to be able to take Fridays off work which will hurt attendance, plus attendance would be split between the thousands of high schools and the colleges which also reduces attendance for both parties.

It’s not a good idea.

Hugh Gitlin on 2/25/2014 @ 5:27pm EST Said:

In Minnesota, the perfect Friday would be the 3rd Friday of October. There is the Education Minnesota conference that day, and all the high schools play the Wednesday before.

Justin on 2/25/2014 @ 5:36pm EST Said:

Fridays are for HS football.

Jonathan on 2/25/2014 @ 6:01pm EST Said:

The problem with the larger schools is clearing campus for Friday Night Games. If a game were to start at 7 p.m., you’re clearing campus five hours before that (at least). You’re going to have issues of class schedule, parking, and employees on a Friday (at the larger schools).

Add to the fact, out of town recruits have zero chance of going to these specific games, which is why some coaches don’t even want to play Noon games on Saturdays (later game gives recruit more chance to show up).

If this is for ESPiN, you’re kidding yourself if you think the company would do anything for the Big Ten before doing it for the SEC. The company is partners with the SEC (on the SEC Network). The pecking order is the exact reason why the Big Ten needs to shop around (for networks) in a few years.

B1Gfan MI on 2/25/2014 @ 6:17pm EST Said:

The B1G doesn’t need to “fill in” for the “big least”, or the ” mountain less” conferences. Friday night football is high school domain. The hokey announcers, contrived “rivalries” and countless truck ads don’t belong in “the Bastian” of college football !

Cane on 2/25/2014 @ 6:33pm EST Said:

Friday is should be reserved for high school football After all most high school programs do not make money. Play on Friday and risk high school football face being discontinued. Big Ten must stay on Saturday’s or face lost revenue, people work!

John Vogelbacher on 2/25/2014 @ 6:34pm EST Said:

What do you think about having the NFL play on Saturday afternoons and evenings? Don’t you think that would be a great idea??? Do you know how much the NFL is leaving on the table???? Gosh what would you rather watch the Bears or Illinois?

You are an idiot to suggest such a thing, I don’t care what the SEC does and if they did play on Fridays I would think they are a bunch of idiots as well. Friday nights are for HS games and it should always remain that way. Always.

Bill on 2/25/2014 @ 6:37pm EST Said:

I would much rather see a few games on Sundays, screw the Gestapo

Dave Dorn on 2/25/2014 @ 7:18pm EST Said:

Friday Nights under the lights in PA are for the High Schools, and only the High Schools, pretty sure the same holds true for Ohio and Maryland as well. B10 does not need that kind of exposure which takes away from the future stars, nor possibly leaving open seats at the Venues hosting the games from the B10, imo.

Doug Tank on 2/25/2014 @ 7:33pm EST Said:

How about Saturday night football all season long. Nothing like Saturday night football in BIG country. No Friday football, we’re the BIG, lets act like it.

BigTenFan on 2/25/2014 @ 9:05pm EST Said:

Let’s say I’m a recruit and I have interest in your school. Well, can’t really make it to town on a recruiting visit on a Friday Night if I am playing MY GAME on a Friday Night can I? And I know that not all games will be on Fridays, but guess which ones will be….the big matchups. Well, if you are the home team, what game do most recruits want to come to town for? The BIG MATCHUPS. Coaches need to use the atmosphere of the big games to show what the experience is truly like. Moving games to Fridays will essentially eliminate 1 or 2 recruiting possibilites for schools to use to reel in a solid class. This seems like it would be a self-imposed recruiting disadvantage if we moved the game to Fridays. PLUS, think about the businesses in the college town that thrive off having games on Saturdays. Majority of people don’t work saturdays (Not everybody, but most) and they spend the day in town and spend money. Think of the season ticket holders that drive from Kearney to Lincoln, or from Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor, or from Akron to Columbus on game days to watch their team. Can they do that on a Friday Night if they leave work at 5? Idiotic column, bad idea.

Rick Bennett on 2/25/2014 @ 10:19pm EST Said:

When is the money grubbing going to end. Fridays are for High school football . Friday night games will harm college attendance greatly and further disillusion an already disillusioned fan base.

J.C. on 2/25/2014 @ 10:30pm EST Said:

Keep Fridays for high school football.

At least in Ohio, that seems like the right thing to do (even though some HS games are on Thursday and Saturday for TV).

I cannot even imagine the logistical nightmare getting people off the Ohio State campus on a Friday for a 7 p.m. game. The same goes for most of the other Big Ten institutions. You have to completely clear out the campus.

Tell ESPN to get their programming elsewhere (I’m sure this is their idea). If they need Friday Night Football so bad, go to their “Golden Child” (SEC). The Big Ten should go to FOX anyways (take all programming off of ESPN) and go head-to-head as FOX’s No. 1 (SEC is ESPN’s No. 1).

J.R. on 2/26/2014 @ 5:33am EST Said:

No biggie. I think if the B1G played 9 Friday night games that would be good for the league. Four of the teams could play Friday night games as their OOC games, and then 5 of the games could be between conference rivals. Nebraska and Iowa currently play a Friday night game so that is one of the games right there…

Friday night games can give more visibility to Big Ten games that wouldn’t necessarily get any national exposure. Here a sample of all B1G games where each B1G team plays one Friday night game during the season:

Friday, Aug 29 Appalachian State @ Michigan
Friday, Sept. 5 Northern Illinois @ Northwestern
Friday, Sept. 19 UMASS @ Penn State
Friday, Sept 26 Tulane @ Rutgers
Friday, Oct 10 Illinois @ Wisconsin
Friday, Oct 17 Purdue @ Minnesota
Friday, Nov. 14 Michigan State @ Maryland
Friday, Nov. 21 Indiana @ Ohio State
Friday, Nov. 28 Nebraska @ Iowa

In reality on 3 big ten teams would have to travel each year for Friday nights. (either Nebraska or Iowa and then 2 other big ten teams. If they schedule correctly your team (outside of Iowa and Nebraska) should only have to travel for a Friday away game once every four years….In the grand scheme of things, this would not be anything a Big team couldn’t handle. I say go for it.

Mark Adsit on 2/26/2014 @ 7:07am EST Said:

… and the ADs are worried about the in-stadium experience and declining attendance? Floating the idea of playing games on Friday nights for television flies in the face of that!

Gcmuller on 2/26/2014 @ 8:58am EST Said:

Not idiotic at all, just pragmatic approach. Alot of great comments about High School football, and I tend to cringe at the thought of this changing landscape.

Personally I would like to see one Good Friday night game per week but my real suggestion would be to make that highly paid College game day crew earn their money. Say that Saturday game day is covering Ohio St vs Penn St, Wouldn’t it be cool to have the game day crew pick a local Friday night High School game like Moeller vs St Ignausis. Showcase the wonderful High School game with a national audience.

Jeff725 on 2/26/2014 @ 10:25am EST Said:

“Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is soliciting input about playing Friday night games. ”

“Soliciting input” is corporate code for “it’s a done deal.”

“Money makes the world go around,
The world go around,
That clinking, clanking sound…”

Robert Zarbaugh on 2/26/2014 @ 11:35am EST Said:

Bad idea. First and foremost, it will hurt high school football. Friday nights are for HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL!!!! Secondly, fans and alumni will possibly have to burn vacation and personal days from work to attend.

Dirk Dieters on 2/26/2014 @ 11:35am EST Said:

Terrible idea–that’s probably why he likes it. We aren’t the Big East. It would just be one more step to kill the golden goose.

Jeff S on 2/26/2014 @ 11:35am EST Said:

Friday’s are from Higsh School Football in the MidWest.. Let the lesser conferences keep Friday night!

Matt on 2/26/2014 @ 11:46am EST Said:

Friday Night Lights is HIGH SCHOOL football. I love football but I don’t need to watch football every night of the week. We have the NFL on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday now. College football on Saturday and Thursday. High School football on Friday. When you add in the issues with travel, college class scheduling, etc it just isn’t a good idea.

PETER GARTHE on 2/26/2014 @ 11:49am EST Said:

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IS FOR THE KIDS, I HAVE GONE 4,395 HIGH SCHOOL GAMES IN MICHIGAN. COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAY SATURDAY, NOT FRIDAY NIGHT. THAT WILL HURT THE KIDS AND ATTENDANCE IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF MICHIGAN AND MIDWEST!

jackson960 on 2/26/2014 @ 11:50am EST Said:

No thank you. Friday night football is for High School (and Pitt). That’s it. Leave Saturday to the big boys and Sunday to the Professionals.

Rick Fortmann on 2/26/2014 @ 11:55am EST Said:

Mr. Bennett is absolutely right. Friday is for HS football. This should not even be on the table for discussion. Well put Rick!!!

dldild on 2/26/2014 @ 12:05pm EST Said:

It sounds as though you are a paid shill for the Big Ten money people. It doesn’t matter if the schools play on Friday night or Sunday morning, if the schools get paid enough, they will concede. Never mind the quality of play, never mind the thousands of people who will not be able to attend because of work issues, never mind the thousands of parents who will miss seeing their kids play on Friday night because of blind loyalty to their college team. Never mind the fact that Big Ten teams will need to hire additional personnel to go scout the high schools because their coaches will be busy playing.

Granted, millions will pour in to Big Ten coffers, but at what price? Eventually, the golden goose is going to be killed off by the latest and greatest craze, and then what.

I will give you that I am one of people who prefers their college Saturday afternoons. I just can’t see football from Thursday to Monday night being workable for the average family. If Mom and Dad are tied up those nights because of college and pro football, where does that leave the kids? Are we that ignorant that we would be willing to give up the family to satisfy our own cravings? Given today’s me generation, perhaps.

I just happen to think that greed is eventually going to be the downfall of all sports. The price of tickets is skyrocketing now. Where is the money going to come from?

Mark Yost on 2/26/2014 @ 12:05pm EST Said:

Already 14-0. The traditionalists have it.

us33fan on 2/26/2014 @ 12:14pm EST Said:

Sometimes late Friday I do watch those west coast games. The stands are about 1/3 full, likely for many of the reasons listed above- HS football, work day and traveling distance. Sad to think that the BIG conference and schools could make more $$ from a TV contract than putting more fans in the stands.

Joe Blow on 2/26/2014 @ 12:31pm EST Said:

Money grubbing NCAA and leagues.
Friday nite games……..go for it if you must. You are gonna need the extra revenue to pay those who really generate all the big $$$……..the players themselves.
The goose that laid the golden egg is being hunted and will be killed…….eventually.

Dale Flickinger on 2/26/2014 @ 12:38pm EST Said:

Dittoo on Rick Bennet’s comm

fred@fred.com on 2/26/2014 @ 12:42pm EST Said:

My Question for Tom: Where will all this hunt for money end? How can the NCAA and the Big Ten keep making the argument that these are “student-athletes,” then keep going after more and more money that doesn’t go to the players? ALL major college football games should be played on Saturday. Period. But if colleges want to play every night of the week, then let’s finally drop the ruse and call it what it is: minor league professional football. And how fans can be expected to show up during the week is beyond me. Contribute a fortune for the RIGHT to buy tickets. Pay another fortune for the tickets, then take days off work to attend weeknight games? It’s all bogus and should stop NOW.

Barbara Smith on 2/26/2014 @ 12:55pm EST Said:

Bad idea, I watch my son coach his high school team on Friday nights and wouldn’t miss it for the world. I like college football on Saturdays. Like it’s been since I grew up in Oxford, Ohio and the cradle of coaches.

Steve on 2/26/2014 @ 12:56pm EST Said:

Another terrible idea motivated primarily by money. No concern for the players or fans, as usual.

John K on 2/26/2014 @ 12:57pm EST Said:

It’s not as if the B1G has trouble recruiting HS athletes as it is. Just go ahead and start scheduling Friday night games and alienate HS coaches even further. What in the world is Delaney thinking? Friday night has always been the HS’s domain. Leave it as such. If you want to play weeknight games go up against the other conferences on Wednesday’s or Thursday’s but leave Friday’s to the HS’s.

Jon Greenwood on 2/26/2014 @ 1:08pm EST Said:

The prior comments say it all. . . .Friday nites are for high school games. . Sundays are for the NFL. . .Saturdays are for college games. Money can not and should not attempt to mess up this perfect balance.

sonofssarek on 2/26/2014 @ 1:15pm EST Said:

Scheduling friday night games should be at the discretion of the home instituiton. Not everyone has a passionate infatuation with HS football. One friday night game per year would be more beneficial than harmful in most cases.

badgerlap on 2/26/2014 @ 1:18pm EST Said:

Terrible idea! We have 4 season tickets and have to drive 300 miles to the Saturday game. This would not be possible on a Friday work day, What about “Tailgating”? Friday’s won’t work. If this happens, we will give up our season tickets and thousands of others will do likewise. Really dumb idea.

Jerrod Matras on 2/26/2014 @ 1:37pm EST Said:

As far as attendance goes -make it a BIG game. a rivalry game. Attendance won’t matter then, people will find a way to get there. Nebraska & Iowa already have a Friday night game, a trophy game, so I think that maybe you could try to move a few more of the 164 B1G trophy games to Friday nights. Get more national recognition for Oaken Buckets and Pigs named “Floyd”, etc…make these regular games that people watch out of tradition, and you have yourself a winner!

westerner88 on 2/26/2014 @ 2:08pm EST Said:

I would like to see some Big Ten Friday Night games, but not an entire season worth, perhaps four or five, and only after the MLB regular season. Those of us who do not go to a high school game every week would like to see a game from a high quality conference on Friday every now and then. At least Friday is part of the weekend. Tuesday and Wednesday, stay away from those.

Scott on 2/26/2014 @ 2:17pm EST Said:

It’s a terrble, terrible idea. Friday night belongs to the high schools. Do Big Ten football departments really want to hurt high school football within he Big Ten footprint? It’s the worst idea that I’ve ever heard.

Also note that when Michigan State played a home game on a Friday night, it was the Friday before Labor Day. Michigan high schools do NOT play football on that day, since half the state is up North having their last weekend (Labor Day) in their cottages or other recreational activities. So MSU did not hurt Michigan high schools with any Friday night game.

TBodee on 2/26/2014 @ 2:39pm EST Said:

Hey another Great Idea by B1G office…maybe we should name our divisions “Leaders” and “Legends”? That sounds like a great idea. I have a better idea…take away Friday nights from the High School exclusivity and let NFL play on Saturdays now. What’s good for the goose, is good ….that ought to line their pockets deeper.

Dave on 2/26/2014 @ 3:03pm EST Said:

Some of you are blowing this way out of proportion…they’re probably talking about one game per friday, which means half would take up a road game during conf. schedule (as someone outlined below), and some would be OOC games. It’d be roughly one home game on a friday ever two years, for each team. I don’t think that’s going to cause a big disruption (and i think many folks WILL take a friday afternoon off to head over to a primetime game every couple years). To me, any negatives would be more than outweighed by having a B1G game to watch on a friday night.

wylie on 2/26/2014 @ 3:21pm EST Said:

Friday night is for High School and crappy Mountain West team. Why not Thursday night like the SEC and ACC?

Rick Cook on 2/26/2014 @ 5:57pm EST Said:

My Question for Tom: I realized my,”ENTIRE”, bucket list this year when I was fortunate enough to watch the Spartans play in the Granddaddy of them all. I love college football, but I would not, will not, give up high school football. I do not believe that having the BT playing a regular schedule of Friday night games will either enhance the leagues reputation, or make good business sense in light of the hardships it would place on their fans! Think outside the box to control costs, because that’s the real challenge faces college athletics, not forcing fans to choose.

DON on 2/26/2014 @ 5:59pm EST Said:

Economic theory of this idea,now that we have increase the price of the ticket, lets 1. Have the game at a time causing the fan the most trouble by requiring to miss a day of work, 2. By keeping the fans from visiting bars and restaurants over the long weekend we will allow these vendors to have a day off from their most profitable time of year, This is not Economics 101 this is Stupid 101.

Don2 on 2/26/2014 @ 8:00pm EST Said:

I cannot begin to recall how many High School football players I followed in the state of Ohio, just to NOW follow them into SATURDAY College football!…if it weren’t for those Friday night “games of the week” I looked forward to, many of these recruits/players would be unknown to me…If the B1G is intent upon Friday night college football events, I’m sticking with the high school option for my Friday nights..I’ll catch the college replays on BTN2Go!

PS:…there’s nothing more exciting than to watch these young kids mature and develop as outstanding athletes slated to go to a higher level [college]…

Delores on 2/26/2014 @ 8:13pm EST Said:

No to Friday night Big Ten games. Friday night should left to high school football games.

LW on 2/26/2014 @ 8:32pm EST Said:

If the Big Ten is wanting Friday nights to deepen their pockets, they are looking at the wrong thing. TV ratings would be higher if the Big Ten was a stronger conference. People will watch, other than their home team, more games with higher ranked teams in the polls.

John on 2/26/2014 @ 9:46pm EST Said:

The operations to run a big time football game are daunting and start long before kick-off with lots of volunteers. Good luck on a day when volunteers are at their normal jobs. Leave it to high school games.

Mike on 2/26/2014 @ 10:32pm EST Said:

Saturday night games – YES. Friday night games – NO. I see one or maybe two exceptions to that. Mich State has played a few Friday night games on Labor Day weekend. Last year the game was with Western Mich. It was a great success, great crowd. Why does this work? On Labor Day weekend, most H.S. games in Michigan are on Thursday night. It also leaves Saturday for travel up north for the last summer weekend. So, it works for the college fans and the HS fans.

Friday night games also diminish the game day experience for the fans (i.e. limited to no tailgating or enjoying of the local establishments). Also, for the road team, there is another class day lost to travel. Teams would travel in on Thursday. There aren’t a lot of classes on Friday afternoon these days. But, Thursday is big time class day.

    wylie on 2/27/2014 @ 7:47am EST Said:

    You have said it better than most.

Charley Hall on 2/26/2014 @ 10:46pm EST Said:

Friday Night Lights are for the HIGH SCHOOLS, at least until late November. When the NFL-AFL merger was approved by congress, on of the condtions was no TV games from September through November. This was done to protect the high schools and colleges. The colleges should honor the spirit of this and think of the high schools. If they don’t we could have congress regulating when colleges can televise games. College Football does not need this kind of interference.

Tony Begenwald on 2/27/2014 @ 12:09pm EST Said:

I concur with all of those who think Fridays should remain for the High Schools. (One item of interest – Peter G. must be in some kind of excellent health. Attending 4.395 football game is remarkable! Even at a schedule of 12 games per year, which is high for high school football, means Peter has been going to games for 366+ years!!!

Karen Wall on 2/27/2014 @ 1:23pm EST Said:

Friday night high school football is a big deal in New Jersey too — and a fair number of Jersey players go to Big 10 schools. Leave Fridays for high school football.