Only Two Night Games for Nebraska Football in 2013

Eric Francis

What's more puzzling in October? The lack of big-name opponents on the Huskers' schedule, or the lack of BTN prime time broadcasts? That, in a nutshell, is why Nebraska won't be playing under the lights much in 2013.

BTN has announced that Nebraska's season opener against Wisconsin Wyoming will be televised by BTN at 7 p.m. (CT) on August 31st. In addition, BTN will also televise the September 7th Southern Miss game at 5 p.m. (CT).

And that's it for evening football for 2013. The ABC/ESPN family passed on selecting any Nebraska games last week, so unless something changes, the other ten games will kick off at either 11 a.m. (CT) or 2:30 p.m. (CT).

That's it. One night game and one evening game in 2013.

I must say that I'm surprised by that, but part of that is due to Nebraska's backloaded 2013 schedule. Nebraska's first eight games aren't particularly compelling, other than the September 14th game against UCLA. That game looked like a natural for a primetime broadcast, but ABC/ESPN chose Notre Dame at Purdue for that evening.

I'm not quite sure I understand the philosophy of the Big Ten and scheduling night games. Night games would seem to be a natural for a twelve team conference, especially in the early part of the season, when the weather is so favorable. Yet only one conference game was selected for a BTN primetime game: October 19th's Wisconsin at Illinois game. That also coincidentally is the only weekend that ABC/ESPN hasn't selected an evening or night game. Sounds like the Big Ten's agreement with ABC/ESPN precludes a BTN game being televised at the same time, right? Actually no, because BTN will carry a doubleheader of primetime games on September 14th while ABC/ESPN is televising Notre Dame at Purdue. So that's not it.

Each week, it seems that ABC televises at least one Big Ten game while ESPN and ESPN2 typically carry two more. That leaves two or three games for BTN to televise each week of the conference schedule. Frankly, one of those BTN games each week should be in primetime in September and October. Frankly, I see no reason why one of Nebraska's games against Illinois (in Lincoln) or at Purdue or Minnesota shouldn't be played at night.

But what about November? I always chuckle when I hear someone complain about the Big Ten's reluctance towards night games in November. I always ask that person where their seats are, and it almost never fails, they admit they don't buy tickets. Some of them are media members who sit in the heated press box. Most everybody else watches the game on television.

I understand the draw of primetime games. The fans get more "lubricated" before the game. More people have an opportunity to watch the game. And it's easier to get potential recruits to Lincoln for the game. But as the temperature drops in November, the advantages of playing at night disappear. Heavy gloves muffle applause. Some fans leave early in search of warmth, or don't even bother to show. And recruits from the Sun Belt might not appreciate a cold weather game.

Nebraska has historically resisted night games in November, and as a season ticketholder, it's a position I've long appreciated as "fan friendly". The fans in attendance pay much more than the television networks, so frankly in my opinion, it's a matter of fairness. Fans already have to block of the entire day for a football game until television makes their call. We've seen Nebraska games kick off as early as 11 a.m. and after 8:15 p.m. in Lincoln in past years. Throw your paying customers a bone.

There is talk that the Big Ten is going to open up to more November games in the future. I have mixed opinions on that. From my perspective, it depends on the exposure that a night game is going to offer. If ABC wants to commit their prime time broadcast and bring College GameDay to a Big Ten game at night in November, that's one thing. An ESPN2 broadcast with Ed Cunningham? That's something completely different, and not worth it.

If you are looking for someone to blame for the lack of primetime Husker games this season, blame the Big Ten's schedule makers. All but one of Nebraska's "Prime-Time Worthy" games are scheduled for November. Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State are all games worthy of the prime time lights, but the Big Ten chose to play them all after Halloween. That's a bad trick to play.

When the Big Ten revises the Huskers 2014 schedule to account for realignment, hopefully they'll spread out the games a little better. Don't load up all of the big games in November. Why load up all of the bye weeks in September and October? The Big Ten plays a full schedule the first three weeks of the 2013 season, then goes part-time until November 2nd. On October 26, there are four games to fit into the morning, afternoon, and evening time slots. The next weekend, six games and no evening time slot. That's not very good planning by the Big Ten.

I know a lot of fans are disappointed about the lack of night games in 2013. I share that disappointment. But the situation was set up when the Big Ten decided to hold the biggest conference games until November. Some fans will complain that fans are just being whiny about weather complaints. That's easy to do when you are sitting in your warm house with a cold beer.

There's something even easier for those folks to do, and actually solves the problem. DVR the game, and watch it in primetime.

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