Big Ten

Big Ten announces six Friday-night games for 2017, with Northwestern playing twice

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Big Ten announces six Friday-night games for 2017, with Northwestern playing twice

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.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.