In one of the more surprising about-faces, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany today announced that beginning next year, the conference will schedule conference games on Friday night.
The position of the conference has long been that they did not hold Friday night games, in order to not conflict with high school games which often take place on Fridays, as well as conflicting with student class schedules. In an article published in the Chicago Tribune, Delany stated, “All things considered, we thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe into the water.”
This is really a seismic shift for the Big Ten, as with the exception of Labor Day weekend, the conference has never scheduled their games on Fridays. When playing in other conferences, they would play games on Fridays, but that was only as an away team. However, Labor Day was an exception. For example, Michigan State opened its season at home against Furman on September 2, which was Friday of Labor Day Weekend.
As Delany noted, when he became commissioner in 1989, there were 16 televised games each Saturday. In 2016, the number has exploded to 95 games. Something had to give.
This change of heart is a part of the new television contracts with ABC/ESPN and Fox, which calls for six Friday games, starting next season.
What will this mean for Rutgers?
As members of the Big East, and for a season, the American Athletic Conference, Rutgers often played games on both Fridays as well as Thursday. This will not be a new concept for fans of the Scarlet Knights. The same would be true of Nebraska and Maryland, as both Big XII and ACC games also were played on Fridays.
However, that is not the case for the teams that have been in the Big Ten for many years. In fact, some will still not face the prospect of “Friday night lights.” Due to the size of the stadiums, both Ohio State and Penn State will not be asked to have games on the new night, and Michigan has evidently already stated they were not interested in playing on Friday, either home OR away games. Sheesh!
For Rutgers fans however, this is not exactly bad news. Having games on Friday night eliminates being relegated to noontime starts, which has led to grumbling from the Rutgers faithful, particularly those that arrive hours early to tailgate. Additionally, noon on Saturday is very early for students who have late nights on Friday. Finally, some of the most memorable games in Rutgers history occurred on weeknight games, most notably the win over Louisville in 2006, which was on a Thursday night on ESPN.
When Will The Games Happen?
Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner (yes, that really is his title) has stated clearly that for the life of the contract, there will be six games per year over the next six years happening on Friday night. However, they will all be in the early part of the season. Rudner said in an article on BTN.com, “This is a play in September and October. We aren’t going to go into November. And we aren’t looking to expand beyond six games at this point.”
However, for now at least, the Big Ten is not moving to any other evenings than Friday for their expansion. With the NFL having already moved into Thursday nights on the NFL Network, the Big Ten is merely keeping up with the changes in viewing habits. And of course, television revenues.
Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs Issues Statement: