Jim Delany has announced that Big Ten schools will play six games on Friday nights, starting in 2017. The Chicago Tribune broke the story, and their report has good information on what is known so far.
As for what is unknown, here are my thoughts and best guesses:
This is a perk / nasty side effect of the ginormous TV deals the league signed with ESPN and Fox. What, you thought the networks were going to shell out all of that money and not ask for more? That’s precious. Consider these Friday night games a cost of doing business.
What games make the Friday night slot? All we know so far is three of the games will be league match-ups and the other three will be non-conference games. I doubt that the marquee match-ups move away from a prime Saturday time slot. ESPN doesn’t gain anything by moving Ohio State – Nebraska from a Saturday night to Friday. The same could probably be said for most of the league’s 2:30 games.
If I had to guess, the Friday slots will be primarily filled by the “Beth Mowins rejects” – the mid-level league games that would normally end up on ESPN at 11 am. Think Indiana – Northwestern or Rutgers – Maryland.
Should Nebraska participate? In the Tribune report, Teddy Greenstein notes that Michigan has refused to participate in Friday games – home or away. I would suspect other schools may have similar agreements – or at least veto power before dates and times are announced. The Tribune also reported that the conference will be “reluctant to ask schools with giant seating capacities to host” Friday games. NU certainly fits that bill.
From a NU perspective, it’s hard to see hosting the average Friday night game being that enticing – especially now that NU has to publicly work to maintain the sellout streak. And as always, there are recruiting implications to consider. I imagine it would be tough to get a lot of recruits to campus on a Friday night. My guess is with the right circumstances – such as the Friday of Labor Day weekend, or their annual Black Friday game – Nebraska could be convinced to host a Friday night game.
Will Nebraska participate? Probably. Nebraska is new enough where they may choose to play nice, and not take a hard-line like Michigan. I can definitely see Nebraska being willing to play a Friday game on the road. For the sake of calling my shot, I’ll predict that Nebraska’s game at Illinois next fall will be NU’s Friday debut.
As a Husker fan, how will this impact me? Honestly, it’s too soon to tell. From what I’m seeing, you should expect at least one of Nebraska’s games in the next three years to move to Friday. My guess that it will be a road game that most of us would not attend in person. For those with busy social calendars, fans of high school teams, or those not home from work, it will create some tough choices. But my guess is the random Friday game will be an unexpected treat, opening up a weekend to do other things.
This also means one extra Saturday in the fall where you don’t have to worry about a wedding interfering with Game Day – and that is always a win.