The Big Ten's decision to play some games is not going over super well with some folks, but it's not just fans on Twitter who are upset with the conference's choice to play six games featuring league teams — three in-conference games, three non-conference games — on Fridays beginning next season.
The Tribune's Teddy Greenstein broke the news of the Big Ten's foray into Friday nights Wednesday and included a bit about Michigan straight-up refusing to participate in Friday-night football.
Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel released this statement later on Wednesday evening.
"Michigan is not scheduled to appear in Friday-night football games. We fully support the Big Ten's scheduling decisions as well as conference peers who are able to play on Friday nights. With our large fan base, Michigan fans and alumni travel significant distances to attend games, making Saturdays our preferred day for all football games."
Not long after the initial news broke, Penn State released a statement, putting its foot down when it comes to hosting any future Friday games.
"Penn State has informed the Big Ten that we will not host football games on a Friday night. We are receptive to an occasional day game on the day after Thanksgiving. There are a variety of reasons why, among them, we know how important Friday-night high school football is to hundreds of communities across the Commonwealth. In addition, we have considered the impact that a Friday-night home football game would have on key community stakeholders. We support the conference's desire to expand exposure for Big Ten football on national platforms, providing additional content at high-demand times, and we've agreed to play no more than one away game each year on a Friday night."
Now, like most controversies, big and small, there are pros and cons to both sides, most of them laid out in that statement from Penn State.
The conference wants some games — and really, this is a very small amount of games — played on Fridays to avoid them being lost in the shuffle during a crazy-busy college football Saturday, a day where even Power Five conference teams are relegated to less-viewed channels because of the sheer volume of high-quality content on at the same time. If you play a game on a Friday night, and especially if you're a team that doesn't automatically get high exposure, you get far more eyeballs on your game than you otherwise would. That's called maximizing your audience, and it makes plenty of sense. Other Power Five conferences like the Big 12 and Pac-12 regularly play weeknight games.
Now, while fans are quick to be unhappy because of the perceived "tradition" that playing on a day other than Saturday "ruins," there are reasons the coaches and teams and schools would be unhappy, as well. The main reason programs would be unhappy about playing on a Friday night is the conflict with high school football, mostly the one that impacts recruiting: High school players can't make campus visits while they're playing in high school football games, nor can they watch the games on TV. Also, college football games are typically day-long affairs for fans, players and others attending or involved. Bringing that atmosphere to a school on a day when students, not to mention some of those players, have classes scheduled would obviously cause issues.
Interestingly, Ohio State is not taking the same stance as Michigan and Penn State, despite Ohio Stadium being similarly huge and the program being the juggernaut that it is. Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith told the Dispatch's Tim May on Wednesday that the Buckeyes will host a Friday-night game once every three years, the first of which will not be in 2017. Seemingly, though, Ohio State will get to pick which Friday it hosts a game, as Smith told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that it would only occur during the school's autumn break in the second week of October.
Meanwhile, Michigan State tweeted the following. The Spartans have been hosting their season-opening games against non-conference opponents on the first Friday of the season for a while now.
Michigan State has agreed to host one Friday night home game per year provided it is over Labor Day weekend.— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) November 2, 2016
Since 2011, MSU has hosted five Friday night games on Labor Day weekend.— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) November 2, 2016
The interesting thing this presents is that historic powers like Michigan and Penn State seem to think themselves able to tell the conference no to these Friday-night games. What happens, though, if Purdue or Maryland or Illinois or Rutgers don't want to play on Friday? Can they be equally dismissive? It would seem to make sense to grow the brands of those programs in front of larger-than-normal viewing audiences, but the potential negative impact on recruiting could also be a real concern.
Sure enough, as Greenstein indicated later Wednesday, Illinois and Northwestern both are open to Friday-night games.