The Big Ten conference and the commissioner of the league, Jim Delany, announced Wednesday morning that it will have six conference games slated for the 2017-18 season on Friday nights.
University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, responded to the announcement later in the day stating that while he respects high school football around the Midwest and realizes the conflict Friday night games could cause, he understands the league’s decision. He said he hopes to pursue hosting weekday games in a limited manner.
“There has been a lot of dialogue within our conference about the feasibility of playing a very limited number of Friday night games,” Alvarez said. “As a former high school and college coach, I have great respect for the tradition and importance of Friday night high school football in the state of Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest. As a conference, we felt it was the right time to explore additional opportunities for exposure on Friday nights on a limited basis.”
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Despite the league’s decision, some schools and reporters around the conference have expressed their displeasure with the situation and are doing what they can to avoid hosting any of the proposed games. Most schools in the Big Ten, like Iowa University, Penn State University and Wisconsin have released statements venting issues they may face with hosting, but have been nonetheless.
Citing parking and high school football issues, however, Michigan University, Ohio State University and Penn State released statements claiming that they will in no way host a Friday night game.
The conference has not yet responded to those schools’ allegations, but will most likely have some issue with a few schools self-reporting their schedule.
Penn State has informed the Big Ten that we will not host football games on a Friday night. pic.twitter.com/6SH1tcvrw4
— Penn State Athletics (@GoPSUsports) November 2, 2016
“At Wisconsin, we are open to hosting games at Camp Randall on the Friday night prior to Labor Day weekend in selected years but have not committed to hosting Friday night games at any other time,” Alvarez said.
As for the reason the league chose to pursue this action, Delany gave a limited response. While details regarding the actual schedule and logistics of TV deals are yet to be determined, the Big Ten and Delany believe it will give some of the less competitive teams more exposure that they wouldn’t otherwise get on a Saturday morning.
The announcement most likely comes to the aid of schools like Rutgers University, University of Illinois and Purdue University, which sit dead last in conference standings and rarely get prime time games in conference play. More elite schools like Michigan and Ohio State will probably be able to escape without having to play Friday games as a result of their size and lack of need for prime time games.
“All things considered, we thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe in the water,” Delany said.
Alvarez also released a statement Wednesday regarding the inappropriate costume depicting President Barack Obama that made an appearance at Saturdays game against University of Nebraska.
“I am deeply troubled by the incident from last Saturday’s game and I am sorry for the harm it caused,” Alvarez said. “I am determined that nothing like this will happen again. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with a number of community leaders and students this afternoon to discuss our stadium policies. Our plan, before our next home football game, is to have a revised policy in place. Our department is committed to working collaboratively to make our stadium a great and safe place for fans to watch a football game.”
The plan will most likely revolve around the limited use of masks in the future and could dissuade the school from having games that might prompt fans to dress in costume.
Regardless of what happens with either issue, it was a busy hump day for Alvarez and will most likely be followed by further statements later in the week as the stories develop.