Ohio State football | Game at Northwestern next season to be on Friday night
Ohio State will play a Friday night football game next season, and not everyone is happy about it.
The Buckeyes will play at Northwestern on Oct. 18 in a rematch of this year’s Big Ten championship game. The game’s shift from Saturday, Oct. 19, was announced by both programs Tuesday.
This will be Ohio State’s first Friday night Big Ten game since the conference announced in 2016 that its teams would play six games per season on that day of the week. It came in conjunction with the Big Ten’s six-year, $2.64 billion television contract with ESPN/ABC and Fox.
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That announcement was met with criticism by those disappointed that the conference was infringing on the day of the week traditionally reserved for high school football. Now that Ohio State will officially play on a Friday next season, that criticism resurfaced.
“I think it would be great if the Big Ten and all its member schools recognize the wonderful environment and sanctity that is Friday night football and how that feeds what they do,” said Beau Rugg, director of officiating and sport management for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he understands that sentiment.
“I don’t disregard that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s no question there’s collateral damage. It was a hard decision for us. I don’t want to disrespect that. There’s nothing I could say or even attempt to say that would help people feel better about that. But we had to do what was best for our league and for our student-athletes that we serve here in the Big Ten Conference.”
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald took a dim view of the move to Friday night.
“I understand why we’re doing this, but it does not make me happy,” Fitzgerald told the Chicago Tribune. “I still fundamentally believe that Fridays are for high school football.”
For Ohio State, Smith said, the timing of a Friday night game makes sense. The Buckeyes are off the previous week and play host to Wisconsin on Oct. 26.
“We gain an extra day of rest for our players,” he said.
Rugg said it was too early to calculate the financial impact for high schools when they have to play on the same night as Ohio State. It would be far worse, he said, if Ohio State played a Friday night home game.
“A home game would be brutal, especially for teams in this area, just with the traffic alone,” Rugg said.
Smith said he would consider having Ohio State play a home game on Friday night only during the school’s autumn break.
“That hasn’t aligned yet,” he said.
Northwestern announced the change of the game date in an email to its season-ticket holders on Tuesday morning. It said the tickets for the Ohio State game would not be made available on a single-game basis. The lack of a public sale is an attempt to limit the number of Ohio State fans attending the game.