The Big Ten’s new TV deal is going to bring in some big changes. For one, conference schools are going to get a gazillion dollars, so new investments in athletic infrastructure, coaching, and more, should be on the way. Big Ten games will also be coming to FOX and FS1, so be ready to hear some unfamiliar pairs of announcers.
And, according to multiple reports, Big Ten football will also be coming to Friday nights for the first time. At least a little bit, anyway. From the Chicago Tribune:
The league’s new television agreements with ESPN/ABC and Fox will include a package of six prime-time Friday games starting in 2017, commissionerJim Delany told the Tribune on Wednesday.
These exact games, per the Tribune, will be announced this week, maybe even as early as later today.
How much will this impact Ohio State? Probably not that much. According to the Tribune, the league has been hesitant to ask schools with huge stadiums, like Ohio State and Penn State, to host Friday night games. Michigan also straight up refused to participate at home or on the road, which is apparently something you’re allowed to do?
So this appears to be a move to help the Indianas and Northwesterns of the league get a little more television exposure. And that, at least on some level, will include Ohio State.
The Big Ten has been reluctant to play games during the week, and for good reason. High school football is played on Friday nights, and it’s tough to host a big recruiting weekend if your targets are actually playing games of their own. Plus, you’re asking fans to make a decision between the two, which hurts support and attendance for local games.
Weekday games are also logistical challenges for the actual universities, which will need to deal with huge influxes of traffic on days when many more people will be around campus. Some schools, like Tennessee, have straight up canceled class on those days. That message seems at odds with the Big Ten’s, which prides itself at being more academically focused, at least superficially.
Finally, Friday games change the entire travel and preparation schedule of the football team. It leads to compressed practice schedules, more missed classes due to earlier travel, and less rest.
It’s already difficult for athletic administrators to tell reporters or fans that their decisions are made with the best interest of the student athlete, or the institution at heart. How do you sell this?
Other conferences have tipped their toes into the mid-week water. The Pac-12 and the ACC, conferences that do not have the alumni-base, the fan support, or the television infrastructure to compete with the Big Ten. Group of 5 programs and conferences, from the MAC to The American, have made Thursday and Friday competition a staple. This is done out of necessity.
The Big Ten doesn’t need to do that to get eyeballs on their teams. Neither does the SEC. You have your own dang channel. You have massive enrollments and will draw ratings no matter what.
Again, from the Tribune:
When Delany became commissioner in 1989, he said, the league had 16 televised football games. Now that number is 95, and he said the result is that the Saturday TV windows “become cannibalized.”
The Big Ten should be able to win those battles on their own merits. If, despite having BTN, the league is worried that fans won’t tune in to watch their games, the problem is with the teams. And with all of the money that the Big Ten is getting from this new TV deal, one that trades rating access for cash, conference programs have no excuse to not put a compelling product on the field.
Putting Big Ten teams, even a small number, on Friday, cheapens the value of the Saturday product. It stoops Big Ten football down to the level of the AAC. It inconveniences fans, recruits, coaches, and actual universities.
And for what, so Maryland can get slightly more TV eyeballs because there’s no other football on? Why should anybody give a crap about that? Has playing Thursday games somehow elevated the product in the Pac-12? Or the ACC?
Though the league was hesitant to have them host Friday games, Ohio State has already said they’d participate, hosting a Friday night game every third season — although they did indicate they will only do it when the school is on Fall Break.
“We are supportive of it,” (Ohio State athletic director Gene) Smith said of move. “We’ve 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.”
That’s hardly a compelling reason, since Ohio State doesn’t exactly need the extra money.
This sucks for everybody except television executives. If Michigan is somehow allowed to say no, Ohio State should as well. Failing that, here’s hoping they are involved as little as possible.