The Big Ten's implementation of Friday-night football didn't go over so well when it was announced back in the fall, and now the league seems to have shrunk its Friday-night offerings for the 2017 season.
Back in November, the conference announced six new games to be played on Friday nights, these games in addition to the annual Heroes Game played between Iowa and Nebraska on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That number grew to seven when Illinois' non-conference game against South Florida was moved to a Friday night.
Two of those games wre set for later on in the season, in October, and both featured the Northwestern Wildcats, something that didn't please head coach Pat Fitzgerald, one of several voices opposed to the start of Friday-night football in the Big Ten.
Well, the conference sent out a composite schedule along with its 2017 season-preview information on Friday, and guess what? Those two October games featuring Northwestern are now Saturday games.
The Cats were slated to take on Maryland and Michigan State on Friday, Oct. 13, and Friday, Oct. 27, respectively. Now those games are set for Saturday, Oct. 14, and Saturday, Oct. 28, respectively. The team's schedule on Northwestern's website reflects those new dates.
Fitzgerald's argument against was certainly an understandable one. The Cats were saddled with two Friday-night games in a three-week span with no bye week in between, something no other Big Ten team had to deal with. Also, the differences in Northwestern's academic calendar make October a particularly important and difficult month for the football team each season.
Of course, there were plenty, Fitzgerald and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh included, who had more general problems with the league's foray into Friday-night games. The complaints centered around the conflicts with high school games, creating a competition for the attention of fans and, more importantly, prospective recruits. Detractors also cited clashes with academic schedules on campus involving student-athletes and other students.
Similarly, though, it was easy to understand why the Big Ten was making this move in the first place. The eyes of college football fans get pulled in a million different directions each fall Saturday. Why not schedule games on a weeknight with hardly any other competition? It puts the conference's schools and programs on a unique stage and shines a spotlight on those who don't often get the attention of programs like Michigan and Ohio State.
In the end, though, it seems the schedulers heard Fitzgerald's argument in moving Northwestern's two October games off Friday night.
That makes for a drastically different-looking first year of Friday-night football in the Big Ten, with just three Friday games not being played on holiday weekends and just one a matchup of two conference teams.
The Friday football schedule in the Big Ten for 2017 now looks like this:
Washington at Rutgers, Friday, Sept. 1
Utah State at Wisconsin, Friday, Sept. 1
Ohio at Purdue, Friday, Sept. 8
Illinois at South Florida, Sept. 15
Nebraska at Illinois, Friday, Sept. 29
Iowa at Nebraska, Friday, Nov. 24