Big 10 and its greed

Gordon Gekko was wrong.

And, so is the Big Ten Conference.

The Big Ten decided last week to play six conference games a season on Friday nights through 2022.

No team will play more than one per year.

And, according to Big Ten Conference Senior Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner, the games have been added to the television agreements with Fox and ESPN/ABC.

They are doing this under the guise of more exposure for the conference.

But, don’t let that fool you folks.

Much like Jerry Maguire, this is ALL about showing the Big Ten the money.

This is greed.

With a capital GREED.

Big props to Michigan and Penn State, who have said no.

Apparently Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith has conveniently forgotten what high school football means in Ohio.

“We are supportive of it,” Smith said of the expanded prime time schedule in a Columbus Dispatch article last week written by Tim May. “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.”

Also from the article … But with the Big Ten’s new television rights deal — worth $2.64 billion over the next six years, according to the Sports Business Journal — that includes the ESPN/ABC networks and Fox, the conference will schedule six Friday night football games in 2017, and 12 Saturday night games for those two entities, the league announced Wednesday. By comparison, it has six in nighttime major network slots this year.

Understand that Smith is not the only person with his hand out.

“It does create additional opportunities for certain programs that heretofore have not had that kind of national prime-time exposure on Saturday night to maybe have that on Friday night,” Rudner said in an Associated Press article last week by Eric Colson.

In other words, the teams in our conference who stink and cannot get on national television on a regular basis will be able to do so on Friday nights.

“It does create additional opportunities for certain programs that heretofore have not had that kind of national prime-time exposure on Saturday night to maybe have that on Friday night,” Rudner said in the AP story.

Illinois and Purdue are all in.

That should come as no surprise because those are the “programs that heretofore have not had that kind of national…”

Yada. Yada. Yada.

Nebraska and Indiana are in.

“There are traditionalists who say Friday is for high school football, but if we can get our product out there on national television when all eyes are on us, that’s great for Purdue,” Boilermakers spokesman Matthew Rector said in the AP article.

The Boilermakers have won nine of their last 45 games.

Minnesota said it will play the schedule assigned.

In other words, the Golden Gophers are 19-37 outside of 2011-15, where they were 29-29.

In the AP story, Illinois spokesman Kent Brown said coach Lovie Smith and the football office e-mailed high school football coaches in the state explaining the situation.

“There is no sacred day of the week for any sports event anymore,” Brown said, noting a lot of high schools play on Saturdays.

Hey, Kent, have you ever heard of the NFL?

You know, football on Sunday’s from September through January and that thing call the Super Bowl.

No sacred day, huh?

How about you take your Illinois team and host Rutgers on Sunday at 1 p.m. opposite the Packers at the Bears?

How’s your ratings?

High school games on Saturday?

I won’t go there other than to say shared stadiums and those with no lights.

In the AP article, Smith said the Big Ten’s move was necessary to increase exposure.

“We avoided it for years,” Smith said.  “We thought we could do it in a limited way, which is why we established some parameters around it.”

Just say it, please.

“We want to give teams in our conference that stink a chance to be on prime time television because they just can’t get there themselves.”

Does college football really need increased exposure?

Here is a perfect opportunity for Smith, Urban Meyer and President Michael Drake to stand with Michigan and Penn State and “just say no.”

They obviously do not remember what happened in the 2006 playoffs when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were 1-2 in the nation and the game was moved from noon to 8 p.m.

It was regional championship Saturday and those games were moved from 7 p.m. to noon to NOT go against the Buckeyes.

No one wanted to have to choose between that game and a high school playoff game.

So, Big Red and Dover played at Fawcett Stadium at noon.

It was a great game.

Steubenville won, 33-30, then went on to edge Kettering Alter, 34-33, in an exciting Division III championship game.

“We fully support the Big Ten’s scheduling decisions as well as conference peers who are able to play on Friday nights,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement in the AP story. “With our large fan base, Michigan fans and alumni travel significant distances to attend games, making Saturdays our preferred day for all football games.”

In a statement, Iowa High School Athletic Association Executive Director Alan Beste said, “Almost certainly Friday night Hawkeye football games will have a negative impact on high school football games across the state. This negative impact would not only be in terms of attendance, but also coverage by radio stations, print media and television highlights.

“Due to increased traffic, schools around the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas would potentially be impacted more than those farther from Iowa City. Even a nationally televised away game would have a negative impact on high school programs by dividing the fan base.

“While the decision to play Big Ten Conference football on Friday nights may be in the best interest of the Big Ten Conference and its member schools, we do not believe it is in the best interests of high school football across the State of Iowa.

“That being stated, we will reach out to The University of Iowa in the hopes we can work together to mitigate the damage this decision by the Big Ten Conference will have on high school football in Iowa. I am confident the Athletic Association and those who support Iowa high school football will find ways to keep it popular and relevant given this new challenge.”

From OHSAA spokesman Tim Streid in the May article:

“We are disappointed. If feedback had been asked for at some point, we would have expressed we certainly would not have been in favor of that happening.

“Every Friday night around Ohio during the regular season there are, on average, 350 high school football games. Not only are those games important for the teams and their fans, for the home teams those ticket proceeds are crucial for their athletic department.

“So if there are outside influences, such a Big Ten game on television, that cause fans to stay home instead of going out to their local high school game, then our member schools are not going to be very happy about it.”

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh tweeted:

“Disappointed to learn Big 10 has chosen to infringe on Friday night High school Football. We should promote rather than create obstacles.”

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter @HSDTsports)


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