I’ve not heard anything about the Big Ten considering Friday night football. And then yesterday, the Big Ten Network writers brought it up.
So, probably time to pay attention to the possibility of Friday night kickoffs in the Big Ten.
The BTN’s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina tweeted yesterday afternoon about the possibilities. They could totally believe in the concept. It makes sense with the Big Ten adding Maryland and Rutgers this season. That’s a lot of TV inventory to hammer into 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and primetime slots.
(Next season is another in which schools will have two bye weeks, so that does alleviate some of the crowding. For example, ESPN (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2) and the Big Ten Network will have five games for broadcast on Oct. 18 next season. On Nov. 22, the number moves to seven. The 2014 season is the last of the two-bye week seasons until at least 2019. Also, the B1G moves to a nine-game league schedule in 2016.)
According to the Wisconsin State Journal’s Andy Baggot, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is trying to get feedback to be used in negotiating the next series of TV deals for the league. Also in the post, the Friday night games might be once every three or four years and is at least four seasons down the road.
As you can see, the amount of games will tax the current model for kickoff times. Another factor to consider is that this isn’t just a “next year” decision. The current Big Ten TV contract expires after the 2016 season (with Fox for the league title game and in ’17 with ESPN/ABC for regular-season games). The league will likely want to have the inventory issue settled with perhaps its most serious TV negotiations it’s ever had in front of it (remember, there’s an SEC Network now on ESPN).
So, it’s probably no accident that BTN writers are floating this trial balloon. (Not saying they’re company men. They’re privy to much more info than I am. For all I know, the BTN has a whiteboard in its Chicago studios with games lined up for each weekend through 2019.)
This is a real issue for the conference. The BTN is smart enough to know its coming and also knows that you don’t like change.
From Dienhart’s post: The Big Ten is leaving a lot of money on the table sticking to a largely traditional TV scheduling format of Saturday games. The league should schedule a package of attractive Friday games, and put the product on the table for networks to bid on, and go from there.
The kicker: EVERY Big Ten school has to take part. That means Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska have to play a Friday night home game. You can’t make Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and the like play more than once at home on a Friday night. If the entire league is going to benefit from a Friday night package, then the entire league has to accommodate and be flexible.
Already with the “you too, Ohio State,” so you know it’s serious. Right now, the BTN poll, which is also on the above link, has the no vote leading 59.46 to 40.54.
You’re against Friday night kickoffs. I’m against Friday night kickoffs. I believe the Big Ten is a gold standard among college football conferences. I would rather see the conference add time slots. Maybe bring back the 1 p.m. and definitely cement a 7 p.m. (and yes, even in November). There would be overlap (how many people have DVRs now?), but the conference would avoid Friday nights. My opinion, leave the Friday nights to the high schools and the trickle of games from the Mountain West and the MAC. Imagine an empty Big Ten stadium on a Saturday. Shudder.
But, Marc, dummy, Iowa and Nebraska play on Friday. Yes, but that Friday is a national holiday and a wide-open national broadcast window. It’s also just one game at the end of the season.
Is this a real thing? ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg, who is one of the main contributors to the Big Ten blog, tweeted that the B1G administrators’ meetings early this week focused on non-football issues and Friday night games weren’t a major discussion point.
Friday night isn’t happening soon and may never happen.
That said, let’s not be naive. This is the age of change and everything is up for grabs.