The Big Ten's foray into Friday-night football begins next season, and now we know which teams will be playing and when.
Many denizens of social media — not to mention head coaches and athletics departments — were downright furious with the news that a small number of games featuring Big Ten teams would be played on select Friday nights beginning next season. The conflicts with high school football seemed to be the main reason behind the furor. Though other conferences have been doing this for a while now, and they're still standing.
Anyway, no matter how you feel about Friday-night football in the Big Ten, it's happening. And the conference announced the six-game 2017 Friday-night slate Tuesday afternoon.
Friday, Sept. 1: Washington at Rutgers
Friday, Sept. 1: Utah State at Wisconsin
Friday, Sept. 8: Ohio at Purdue
Friday, Sept. 29: Nebraska at Illinois
Friday, Oct. 13: Northwestern at Maryland
Friday, Oct. 27: Michigan State at Northwestern
Most notably, Northwestern is playing in two of these games, traveling to play Maryland and playing host to Michigan State. That's two Friday-night games in a three-week span. Surely, Pat Fitzgerald isn't happy about that, which can be gleaned from his comments disparaging Friday-night college football on Monday.
Now, if you're still fuzzy on the reasoning behind the conference's decision to play these games on Friday nights, it's all about exposure and all about the Benjamins (baby).
On your typical college football Saturday there about eleventy billion games going on, and the ones on the biggest networks draw the most eyeballs, which in turn draws the most money. Even Power Five conference teams get buried on channels like ESPN U because of the sheer volume of high-quality football going on at once.
On Friday nights, that's not a problem, and a far greater number of viewers can watch those games because they're not competing with a full schedule. Sometimes these Friday-night games will be the only college football game on, meaning a bigger audience, more exposure and more money.
And for the smaller programs in the Big Ten, that's a great opportunity. Teams like Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern don't automatically get large national attention that comes free and easy for the Michigans and Ohio States of the world. Well, play on a Friday night, and all the attention goes to you.
Plus there's a very good chance that a stadium atmosphere on a Friday night will be far better than at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It's good news for university students who want to experience a primetime atmosphere, something that doesn't come around too often in places like College Park and West Lafayette.
It's understandable, of course, that coaches would be upset about conflicts with high school football. To them, the exposure won't apply to potential recruits, who will be busy playing in games. And campus visits for recruits can't happen on a Friday night, again because those kids are busy with their own games.
And then there's the logistical issues that come with swarming a campus with football fans on a weekday when classes are in session, classes that could contain some of the student-athletes tasked with playing in these games, depending on their schedules.
Fans, at least those who got mad on social media, seem to be mostly concerned with the "tradition" of playing on Saturdays and Saturdays only (again, something dispatched of by other conferences with no disastrous effects), though some fans, too, certainly have conflicts with high school football.