Last November, the Big Ten announced that six 2017 football games would be played on Friday nights under the league’s new conference television package with ESPN and Fox.
Now, the list is down to four games. Northwestern apparently wasn’t completely on board with the plan when two Wildcat games ended up in the Friday schedule. University administration heard the overwelmingly negative response from their fans as well as coach Pat Fitzgerald, and things escalated with the conference. Quietly, the Big Ten revised the schedule, and Northwestern’s Friday games against Maryland and Michigan State were moved back a day to Saturday.
Both of Nebraska’s Friday football games remain as previously announced; the Huskers will travel to Illinois on September 27 while Iowa will visit Memorial Stadium on Black Friday, November 24. Rutgers, Wisconsin and Purdue will also host non-conference Friday night games.
A Big Ten source told the Chicago Tribune that the league responded to the “unintended consequences” of Friday night football games. That’s good news because apparently the Friday football package is not set in stone. Fans still have their opportunity to make their voices be heard if they don’t want their teams playing on a fall Friday.
ESPN reports that the Big Ten is going to host a meeting with representatives from both the state high school athletic associations as well as the league’s broadcast partners to discuss ways to mitigate the negative effects of the Big Ten’s Friday night football plans.
The issues with high school football are among the easier to address, in my opinion. For example, in Nebraska, the Friday night games could slide into Saturday. That could be a huge benefit for the Lincoln schools, which typically needs doubleheaders at Seacrest Field to get all of the games in. It won’t mitigate the logistical issues of trying to accomodate 90,000 fans on a weekday in Lincoln. Classes will need to be cancelled to free up parking lots for fans. Fans from outside of town will need to take vacation time in order to make it to the game, while downtown Lincoln offices may need to close early as well.
All told, this second look by the Big Ten at Friday night football is an opportunity for NU to reconsider it’s prior support for Friday night football. After experiencing the logistical issues of the Huskers 2001 Thursday night game against Rice, I felt pretty confident that Nebraska would never try that again. Sad to say, I suspect the lessons from that night have since been forgotten. That weeknight game was unavoidable in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, but future games remain avoidable.