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Who should play Friday Night Big Ten football?

And why are some teams saying they won't, or can't, do it?

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Earlier this week, Scott Dochterman of The Athletic shared a thoughtful article with several notes about future Big Ten schedules and television obligations. The entire story is worth a read if you’re somebody that cares about a Big Ten team, but this passage, about Friday night football games, caught my attention.

This current season, the Big Ten aired five games on Friday nights, not counting the Black Friday doubleheader next month. With Fox ponying up to help the conference add Oregon and Washington, the Big Ten will air nine or more Friday games in 2024 on Fox properties.

“It’ll be significant in terms of the amount of national exposure that we have on Friday night on Fox,” Petitti said.

Some schools, like Michigan, will not compete on Friday. Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa have logistical challenges that prevent them from hosting except in specific circumstances. There also will be Saturday prime-time kickoffs on the West Coast, but not every week.

Several of my readers, along with other folks on social media, started to wonder why Ohio State, Michigan, and others won’t be hosting Friday night games. Surely the Big Ten’s media partners didn’t fork over all that money just to broadcast Purdue And Friends on Fridays, right?

I reached out to Ohio State, Penn State, and the Big Ten office on Thursday. Here’s what an official Ohio State spokesperson told me when I asked what those “logistical challenges” were.

Regarding Friday night games at Ohio State: they do present challenges, namely: significant all-day traffic concerns on a Friday with classes in session and our stadium on campus; and the fact that we don’t want to go head-to-head with the rich tradition of Ohio high school football Friday nights.

An official spokesperson for Penn State football offered the following:

It is accurate to say we cannot logistically host a football game on a Friday night due to classes. All of the daily commuter lots utilized by students and staff, as well as a large number of other campus lots are used on football game days. If we hosted on a Friday, we would have limited parking for a stadium that holds more than 106,000 people. Add in traffic flow issues with people coming on campus for a game and others trying to leave campus after a work day, that would set up quite a snarl

Columbus and State College are two very different places, but honestly, I think both schools are telling the truth.

I grew up outside of Columbus and went to Ohio State. Columbus may be a reasonably big city, but it doesn’t have much of a public transportation system, and a 7:00 kickoff would mean that tens of thousands of people are coming to campus right as downtown workers are trying to head home, and students and university workers would be trying to leave campus. The parking and traffic situation would be a hee-uuge pain in the ass, I’m sure.

State College is not a very big city, but it would have the same problems with parking and traffic. Nebraska (not one of the schools mentioned in the article), closed campus for their Volleyball Day event, in part because trying to move 90,000+ fans (not to mention stadium workers, staffers, etc) during a schoolday, was almost logisitically impossible.

I’m sure traffic is a pain just about anywhere that hosts a Friday game. But some problems come with hosting 40,000ish fans on campus, and some problems come from welcoming 100,000+ fans on campus…I don’t think it’s reasonable to pretend those concerns are exactly the same.

But lots of schools in the Big Ten have huge stadiums, care deeply about high school football, and will have traffic concerns. So how do you handle this Friday football business?

Based on the wording in The Athletic article, my assumption here is that the current TV deal recognizes these logistical realities, and will not force those four schools to host Friday games. If that’s the case, I’d be a little surprised if USC and UCLA ended up hosting Friday games very often as well.

But that’s just an assumption, one that I can’t 1000% verify with reporting yet. If the TV contract does include those clauses, it means that Friday hosting will almost certainly fall disproportionately on programs like Purdue, Illinois, or Indiana. Maybe those schools are okay with that arrangement since it’s more difficult for those programs to get the same national TV spotlight on Saturdays…but I’m sure their fans (and coaches) would also prefer to be watching HS football on Fridays.

If those clauses don’t exist, then we could potentially be in for a fascinating showdown at some point between a Big Ten blueblood and a television partner. Forcing a school to play in timeslots that they deeply want to avoid is not a great way to build goodwill and stability, after all. Just ask Oklahoma fans.

Of course, in my humble opinion, the easiest solution here would simply be to not play any Big Ten football games on Friday. Why should any of us care about “exposure”, given the size of Big Ten brands and the reach of the rest of the TV contract? Sure, Purdue isn’t getting many primetime Saturday night games, but they don’t play in the MAC or Conference USA. They don’t have to play in weird time slots to get linear television attention.

But playing on Fridays means the league gets more money. Fine. Whoopie.

But that also means those schools shouldn’t expect a sympathetic public if they start complaining about what that money requires. Of course, it’s unpleasant. But that’s what the money is for.

Here’s what else we published this week:

I was in New Orleans for most of this week at the Women Leaders in College Sports conference, interviewing all sorts of administrators about big-picture college sports topics. For example, I chatted with MWC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez about potential promotion/relegation plans, a post-employment college sports model, sustainability of mid-major success, and more. I’ll be sharing more of these interviews over the coming days.


Friends, that’s a lot of stuff! And I have even more reporting coming next week! Going to conferences, filing a gazillion FOIA requests, and getting on the phone with industry leaders, all take time and money. You can best support the work we do at Extra Points by upgrading to a paid subscription. That gives you everything we write, access to Athletic Director Simulator 3000, and the FOIA Directory, for just eight bucks a month.

Thanks for reading everybody. I’ll see you on the internet next week.

If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS3000, good news! They’re affordable, and we still have openings for this year. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips or FOIAs you want to share, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky

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