Might "Friday Night Lights" be coming to the Big Ten?
Currently in the process of deliberating new TV deals for the conference, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has reportedly reached out to teams and gauged their interest in hosting or playing in Friday night football games, according to Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Update: Thursday, Feb. 27 – 1:20 p.m. ET
According to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, Delany said at a luncheon that talks about Big Ten Friday night games are "premature":
That sounds a bit like political language, but it's worth making note of. Still, Delany did not deny that he is looking into the possibility.
-- END OF UPDATE --
Per Baggot's report:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is trying to get feedback to be used in negotiating the next series of TV deals for the league. The current contracts run through 2016 (with Fox for the conference football championship game) and ’17 (with ESPN and ABC for regular-season games).
If the networks want Big Ten games on Friday nights—a slot traditionally reserved for high schools—Delany wants to know where his constituents stand and an idea of what a commitment like that would be worth.
As alluded to by Baggot, this change would be at least a few years down the line. The regular-season contracts with ESPN and ABC—the ones most pertinent to this report—run through 2017, which is four full regular seasons from now.
However, Delany is playing the field on both sides to see how both the networks and programs feel about making such a commitment. Even though, per Baggot, "Friday games might be once every three or four years" for each team, even that would be a tricky situation to manage.
High school football usually takes place on Friday nights, and intersecting those games with Big Ten games could hurt the conference in recruiting. Coaches would be preoccupied and unable to scout high school prospects, while high school prospects would be likewise preoccupied and unable to watch Big Ten teams.
Still, the potential monetary benefit might outweigh such relatively minor recruiting concerns. Writes Sam Cooper of Yahoo! Sports:
Both the [now defunct] WAC and Mountain West have had many Friday night games in recent years. The appeal of being the only college game on a particular night for smaller conferences is understandable. If the networks want it, the Big Ten may be willing to give it a shot. Money talks, after all.
The Big Ten would be the only BCS conference with Friday night football games. For the networks—which are more likely to support this cause than the teams—that would give those contests a tempting market share. With hardly any NFL games taking place on Friday nights either, the Big Ten games would be the major sporting attraction of the evening.
There's a reason, according to Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk, that this discussion has taken place before:
According to the Baggot article, another talking point for Delany is the advent of outdoor night games in November. These would present cool, unique experiences at places like Camp-Randall Stadium in Madison, but would it really be practical with regard to weather?
The new TV contracts might be a long way away from taking effect, but the negotiations are at least worth keeping an eye on.