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Rutgers Football gets a Friday night primetime game in 2017

The first Big Ten home game on a Friday night will likely be in Piscataway

Big Ten Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Friday Night Lights. High school football. Not any more.

Our Jim Hoffman covered the Big Ten’s announcement last week that the conference was changing its long-standing position of only playing on Saturdays except for special occasions. Looking for an opportunity to get more games on the air than could be accommodated on Saturday, Commissioner Jim Delany announced the switch.

The Big Ten announced the specific football games to be televised in Friday primetime during the 2017 season. The games, which will be televised by ESPN and FOX, are as follows:

  • Fri., Sept. 1 Washington at Rutgers
  • Fri., Sept. 1 Utah State at Wisconsin
  • Fri., Sept. 8 Ohio at Purdue
  • Fri., Sept. 29 Nebraska at Illinois
  • Fri., Oct. 13 Northwestern at Maryland
  • Fri., Oct. 27 Michigan State at Northwestern

For Rutgers fans, this was likely the best option among a few possibilities. This is Labor Day weekend. People are off, it’s possible they’re even off on Friday. It would not impact any high school games as that slate would not begin until at least the following weekend. And it means the rest of the Knights’ home schedule is intact on Saturdays.

When the conference announced the Friday proposal, it was also noted that several schools wouldn’t be required to host Friday games due to their logistics (read size of stadiums), specifically Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. And some, again the three mentioned, expressed disapproval of having Friday games. This seemed very odd considering how unified most things are coming out of the Big Ten.

One of the concerns that the Big Ten wanted to take into account was the impact on high school football. In some parts of the country, that Friday night game is not just a high school experience, it is a community experience. Just ask Coach and Tammy Taylor. The conference noted they would communicate with the individual high school associations toi allay concerns. And while the NJSIAA, New Jersey’s athletic governing body, had no concerns, other states, perhaps with greater community involvement, were wary of the switch.

The Big Ten, in its press release, noted the concern for high school sports:

The Big Ten Conference appreciates the significance of high school football within the region and has worked to minimize the impact of this initiative by limiting the number of Friday night games. Overall, these games represent approximately six percent of Big Ten home games annually, and no institution will host more than one game in any given year. Friday night games will also be announced at least 10 months in advance to provide all parties adequate time to prepare.

That preparation might include allowing high schools to adjust their schedules to avoid conflicts.

All of this is a result of the new television deals that the Big Ten has with ABC/ESPN, FOX and its own BTN. As a result of the new TV deals, every Big Ten football game over the next six years will be nationally televised by one of those networks. It is estimated that of the approximately 600 games scheduled to be broadcast by those networks in the next six years, only 36 games (six per year) will occur on Friday night.

It’s interesting that the press release from the Big Ten put a positive spin on the Friday games and the fact that some programs - the more successful schools with larger stadiums and fan bases - don’t want to host these games.

While not all institutions are able to participate in Friday night matchups, all 14 institutions will participate in the broad initiative to provide more primetime exposure on national platforms. [emphasis added]

Yeah, too bad they aren’t able to be a part.