Big Ten to Play Select Games on Friday Nights Starting in 2017

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Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced Wednesday the conference will have six Friday night games starting in 2017 as part of its television deals with Fox and ESPN/ABC, according to the Chicago Tribune‘s Teddy Greenstein.  

“All things considered, we thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe in the water,” Delany said of the decision.

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch‘s Tim May, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith acknowledged Friday night Big Ten games will clash with high school football but remains behind the move.

“We are supportive of it,” Smith said. “We battled for a long time to try to be respectful obviously for high school football. But the reality is what we need to do for our television partners and what we need to do for our revenue stream, we needed to consider some different options.”

However, Penn State released a statement saying they will not host Friday football games:

While playing Friday night games will likely mean more money for the Big Ten, it could be a tough sell for fans.

SB Nation’s Matt Brown was critical of the decision:

Land of 10’s Scott Dochterman noted one problem Friday night games present:

But no school is exempt from playing host to a Friday night home game. That will create logistical issues at some locations, such as Iowa. Employees and patients occupy parking lots each day near University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which is located across the street from Kinnick Stadium. Other campuses face similar challenges.

Too much of a good thing can be bad. Fans already dedicate their Saturdays to watching college football, while NFL games populate Monday, Thursday and Sunday. That’s a lot of televised football, which could lead to burnout for those who follow both the college and pro games.

It’s understandable for a “Group of Five” conference to schedule games in the middle of the week, since it can bring much-needed exposure. The Big Ten, on the other hand, isn’t exactly hurting in that category.

In May, USA Today‘s Steve Berkowitz reported the Big Ten earned $448.8 million in total revenue in 2015, up almost $110 million from 2014.

Another big question will be whether the Big Ten’s premier programs will be fully on board. Smith told May he envisions the Buckeyes hosting one Friday night game every three years. Delany, however, said to Greenstein that the Michigan Wolverines are putting their foot down and refusing to play Friday nights, whether at home or on the road.

Delany added the Big Ten may shy away from having schools with larger stadiums, such as Michigan and Ohio State, play host Friday nights, which would dilute the quality of the possible matchups.

Playing Friday nights—even with a limited schedule—is a bold move for the Big Ten, and it’s likely to be polarizing among fans of the conference.