INDIANAPOLIS — It’s never enough, is it? Talking to you, Big Ten. Talking to you, commissioner Jim Delany. You’ll invade Friday night because there’s never enough money for the machinery. Here’s a chance to make more. So you take it.
Even though it will crush high school football.
Hell, the Big Ten’s decision to televise six Friday night football games over each of the next six years is going to crush more than high school football. It will crush high school volleyball, baseball, track, soccer …
How do you think high schools fund their nonrevenue sports? They fund them with the money they make on Friday night football. Those $5 tickets. That $1 soda. Those 75-cent Snickers. It adds up.
It won’t add as high now. Not with the Big Ten televising games on 36 Friday nights over the next six years, giving football fans around the Midwest another outlet, an easier outlet, to get their football fix on Friday night.
“Friday night football is a huge part of your entire athletic budget,” says Hall of Fame football coach Dick Dullaghan, who coached at Carmel, Ben Davis and Bishop Chatard and won eight state titles. “Some high schools can make enough money on one Friday night to support two or three other sports for the whole year. And they only charge $5 to get in. It’s the greatest bargain in the world.
“And now they’re going to put Big Ten football on Friday night? That’s money-hungry. That’s ridiculous. Are you kidding me? I just … oh! It makes me so angry.”
The University of Michigan has refused to play on Friday night, but only to protect its enormous fan base from travel difficulties — not to protect high school football. Penn State will play on Fridays, but not at home. Ohio State will play at home on Friday, but only during fall break, and is willing to go on the road.
The Big Ten, which will televise its Friday night games in September and October, will become the fourth Power Five conference to embrace this assault on high school football (joining the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12). This season there are 65 college football games scheduled for Friday night. This problem is only getting worse.
Here in Indiana, IU has agreed to play one Friday night home game every three years. Purdue has agreed to play at home on Friday night as well. They have their own bills to pay, we all get that, but this is the wrong way to do it. There are lines you do not cross.
Noblesville football coach Jason Simmons straddles both sides of that line. He’s the assistant executive director of the Indiana Football Coaches Association, and he says “we’ll have coaches that are certainly disappointed the Big Ten is going this direction.” Simmons also goes way back with IU coach Kevin Wilson — he played collegiately at Miami (Ohio) when Wilson was an assistant there — but this decision by the Big Ten? This one hurts. And it hurts all over the Midwest.
“If Nebraska is playing a home Friday night football game, that’s the (de facto) professional team in that state,” Simmons says. “That place is flooded with people from all over Nebraska, and if that stadium fills up, the impact it will have on high school crowds and high school revenue is immeasurable.”
How about here in Indiana?
“If Columbus East and Columbus North are playing home games and IU has a home game that Friday night, neither one of those (high school) games is going to draw what they should,” Simmons says. “They’re just 40 minutes from Bloomington.”
New Pal coach Kyle Ralph spit out the following in a terse text message to me about the Big Ten’s infringement on Friday night:
“Not a fan, to say the least.”
Neither is Doreen Ash, whose husband, Chris, coaches Rutgers but whose son plays high school football.
“This is ridiculous,” she wrote on Twitter. “As a HS parent I will have to choose between my son’s game or husband’s game. There will be no recruits and limited fans.”
Want ridiculous? Check this out: The Indiana High School Athletic Association budget is built around state tournament revenue, which is unaffected by September/October attendance. Commissioner Bobby Cox actually applauds the Big Ten’s Friday night invasion, making this just the latest issue where I wonder what on earth he’s thinking.
“I think this is also a great opportunity for our organizations to work together to cross-promote a sport that has been under attack,” Cox told IndyStar IU football writer Zach Osterman via text.
No, Bobby. This is not a great opportunity for anyone but the Big Ten to make more money, and to make it at the expense of high school sports. And if you won’t get good and fired up about it, call one of your member schools. They’re unhappy. Or listen to one of the most legendary high school football coaches in state history, Dick Dullaghan.
“I remember sitting in a meeting where our AD told everybody in the room, ‘All of you better make sure we support the football program, because they are making it possible for the rest of us to exist,’” Dullaghan says. “Friday night college football on television? It galls me. It’s (expletive). No other way to say it. I swear to God, it’s that bad.”