CHICAGO — Friday night games are now a major topic of discussion in the Big Ten after Commissioner Jim Delany announced that the conference would start playing them last November. Nebraska plays in one of two Friday night games this season. The Huskers face Illinois on Sept. 29.
Delany was asked about the “push back” about the Friday night games during his time at the podium at Big Ten Media Days and had this to say: “I think it’s fair to say there’s been pushback. It led us to open up even more communication with the high school directors.
“We’ve worked to mitigate by very early selections. I think you’ll see selections probably in October preceding the season, number one. And number two, to work with the high school athletic executive directors to mitigate.
“This year we have two games that are Friday non-Labor Day, Ohio and Purdue and Nebraska and Illinois. So we’ll continue to work with people to try to mitigate any negative impact in that area.”
Having early selections for the games will help, though it seems some of the more powerful schools in the conference will be reluctant to warm up to the idea.
As for the players and coaches playing in a Friday night game this season, I asked Illinois head coach Lovie Smith for his thoughts on his team being in the game:
“I can understand the people that are presenting it as high school football versus college football. As I see it, it’s football. And its more football we are adding to the mix. Its not like we are playing our entire schedule on Friday nights but to mix a couple Friday night games in we feel like is OK for football. What we want people to be able to see is the University of Illinois play football.”
For the player perspective I spoke with all of the Illinois players at media days but cornerback Jaylen Dunlap was the most excited about the opportunity to play on Friday:
“Friday Night games, its good man. When you get to high school you can’t wait to play on Friday nights and it’s everything you could ask for. It’s a night game, its under the lights, your whole school is there and then you get to college and you back to playing Saturdays so I think this game will bring you back to high school days. The games that we have on Friday nights and the games and atmosphere will be more energetic.”
If the players we spoke with are any indication, there is a lot of excitement to regain some of that high school fun at the collegiate level, but the pressure will really be on Delany to make this as seamless as possible for local high schools going up against college games.