Friday Night Games Would Be Horrible Move for Big Ten Football

Andrew CoppensContributor IFebruary 26, 2014

FILE - In this July 28, 2011, file photo, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany speaks to reporters during the Big Ten NCAA college football media day in Chicago. The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting Thursday, July 19, 2012, that the Big Ten is considering a plan to give its commissioner the power to fire coaches in the wake of the Penn State child sex-abuse scandal. An 18-page plan being circulated among Big Ten leadership would include giving Delany the authority to levy sanctions including financial penalties, suspensions and termination of a school employee. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
Paul Beaty/Associated Press

Under the leadership of Jim Delany, the Big Ten hasn't been afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and put itself out there. However, the latest balloon floated by the commissioner may be a step too far, even for the innovative Big Ten. 

On Tuesday, Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal broke news that the Big Ten is looking to explore not only the possibility of more night games in November, but also playing some games on Friday nights.

Yes, that's right, Friday Night Lights won't be for high school football anymore if a proposal by the conference office gains legs. 

Why the balloon of Friday night football being floated? According to 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.

The truth of the matter is that college athletics have become beholden to the money television contracts give them. Across college football, you are likely to hear Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." being blared, because it seems to be the anthem of college commissioners and athletic directors. 

Or, to put it another way, as DJ Quick said, "if it don't make dollars, it don't make sense."

As for the newest idea being put out there by the Big Ten, it's a curious idea to float to say the least. It's especially curious given the emphasis on the in-game fan experience the Big Ten has begun to really ramp up.

Delany has been so worried about the in-game issues that he's had a committee put together to address what is going on around Big Ten stadiums. 

TONY DING/Associated Press

Clearly, this league has been about the fan experience, and after a recent rash of reports about the concern over fan (and student) attendance numbers, how exactly would a Friday night game help ease those concerns? 

It certainly doesn't make traveling to an away game easier, nor make attending a game for alumni easier. About the only thing it does is create a novelty that will wear off after a few seasons of it happening at each school. 

While there may be a way to maximize television eyeballs for games like, oh, I don't know...say Purdue vs. Rutgers (yawn inducing to say the least), television isn't the end all, be all some make it out to be.

Will people care about the Boilermakers vs. Scarlet Knights on a Friday night enough to cancel Friday night plans with friends to stay home and tune in to the game? 

There is nothing wrong with innovatingjust look at how important the Big Ten Network has become to the league. Yet, even that importance has its limits. 

Skewing to the whims of a fickle television viewing public in the here and now may bring instant cash, but at what cost? Look at how the popularity of Major League Baseball has faded on national television in the past decade

The same MLB that was considered the king of media and fan passion just a decade before the decline. So, maximizing on potential dollars now, while sacrificing one of the core traditions of the very conference you are representing, is walking too fine a line if you ask me. 

Unless the Big Ten is receiving a massive amount of money for moving some games to Friday night's, it can't offset the tradition of Saturday football across Big Ten country. 

Sometimes, selling out anything and everything just isn't worth it—and in this case, the Big Ten is better off grounding this idea before it ever gets off the ground. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.