CHICAGO — Black Friday could revert to just a shopping holiday in Eastern Iowa as soon as 2018.
Mark Rudner, the Big Ten’s senior associate commissioner for television administration, said it’s possible the Iowa-Nebraska game could move from Thanksgiving weekend in future schedules. The schools are scheduled to meet in the season finale through 2017, and those games are slated for Black Friday.
“We haven’t seen the schedule yet, (we) haven’t done it yet,” said Rudner, who handles Big Ten scheduling. “It could be Iowa-Minnesota in the last week. Nebraska-Wisconsin. We just don’t know.”
Iowa and Nebraska moved their regularly scheduled games in 2011 and 2012 from Saturday to Friday in part to accommodate the Cornhuskers’ tradition. After two seasons Iowa agreed to permanently extend the season-ending game to a Friday showcase. But that only counts if the league schedules the series on that weekend.
“What happened was they said ‘OK, if Iowa-Nebraska is scheduled the last week of the season, then that game will move from Saturday to Friday,’” Rudner said.
The 2018 schedule could be completed and released within a month, Rudner said.
The 2014 and 2015 Big Ten seasons feature 14 schools and only eight league games. There are few high-profile games among traditional powers. Wisconsin, for instance, plays Maryland and Rutgers, while Iowa faces Indiana and Maryland.
The Big Ten’s nine-game schedule begins in 2016, which coincides with a new television contract. So there’s speculation the league preserved its high-profile crossover match-ups such as Ohio State-Nebraska and Michigan-Wisconsin to provide a strong inventory for its new media partner. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also told reporters this spring the schedule will feature more match-ups among traditional powers.
“I don’t want to say we were saving it, necessarily,” Rudner said. “We just wanted to get through ’14 and ’15. We intended for parity scheduling to begin in ’16. The intent all along was for the parity scheduling to kick in when it went to nine games.”
Future schedules also will feature more conference games earlier in the season. In 2017, Ohio State opens at Indiana, but it’s the only conference game before the traditional late-September start date.
“I think TV loves it,” Rudner said. “If you look at the early September games this year, it’s pretty light.”
Michigan and Penn State also were open in early September 2017, but Rudner declined to schedule that game as a season opener.