When the Big Ten announced earlier this week that they would be implementing a new Friday night package of six games come the 2017 season, there were plenty of mixed emotions to say the least. The plan is definitely good exposure for the conference and to have their teams play one of very few, if not the only, games on Friday nights leading into Saturdays.
However, there are some around the Big Ten and trickling down the football tree that aren’t too pleased. One of them being Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh. Michigan was the only school to fully decline participating in the Friday night package. Some schools like Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State agreed to it, but with major limitations. The Wolverines however were the only to “flat-out say no,” according to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany because the school “simply prefers Saturday games for ‘consistency of presentation.'”
Both Harbaugh and Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel both expressed their opinions on the matter:
“I think (college football) is a Saturday game,” Harbaugh said. “I’m for traditional Saturdays. Friday night is for high school football. That’s my knee-jerk reaction to it.”
“Michigan is not scheduled to appear in Friday night football games,” U-M athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement on Wednesday. “We fully support the Big Ten’s scheduling decisions as well as conference peers who are able to play on Friday nights. With our large fan base, Michigan fans and alumni travel significant distances to attend games, making Saturdays our preferred day for all football games.”
There are a number of people and both Harbaugh’s and Manuel’s respective positions that are strongly against the move made by the Big Ten Conference. Among those is the executive director of the Michigan High School Athletics Association, John E. “Jack” Roberts.
“We are saddened by this decision. We had hoped that the Big Ten Conference would stay above this. We think this cheapens the Big Ten brand,” Roberts said. “Fans won’t like this. Recruits won’t like this. And high school football coaches won’t like this.
“We are grateful that Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are trying to minimize the effects of this decision by the Big Ten. But overall, this is just the latest step by major college athletics in the pursuit of cash that is just crushing high school sports.”
A number of unnamed Big Ten assistant coaches sounded off on the topic as well, none of whom are in favor of the decision.
“Friday night games would put the Big Ten in a recruiting disadvantage,” said one Big Ten assistant coach. “No other conference has the game-day atmospheres of this league. Combined with two teams, or whoever is playing, would not have the opportunity of going to recruit on Friday nights, as well [as] to watch prospects play.”
As another assistant said, “It kills us with recruiting. One of the best things about our place is the game-day environment. Those kids won’t be able to experience that, because they will all have their games.”
And another assistant added, “There is [no advantage]. Most, if not all, high school kids play on Friday nights, which means you would lose one game for recruiting.”