The Gophers football program avoided what could have been an unpopular game on the schedule in 2017: a Friday night matchup that would have put college football up against high school traditions in Minnesota.
The Big Ten released on Tuesday afternon the six games its teams will play on Friday nights in 2017.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys and voices from the Minnesota high school football ranks were not thrilled about the idea, so the absense of Minnesota on the Big Ten’s list likely is seen as a nice win.
“I’m positive the NCAA is going to hear about our disappointment with this decision,” Brainerd coach Ron Stolski, executive director of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association said last week of the Big Ten’s change. “And I’m certain across the nation, our disappointment will echo.”
Former Wayzata coach Brad Anderson said: “I think it’s a big mistake for the Big Ten. To me, you’re losing the college experience and chasing the dollars. It just doesn’t feel like college football when you’re playing on Tuesdays or Thursdays or Fridays. I think it’s going to get oversaturated, similar to the NFL.”
Claeys told media he was “not a fan” of the plan last week.
Historically, the Big Ten had turned down Friday night games with the exception of Labor Day weekend, citing a conflict with high school football and concerns about impacting class time and campus logistics. That changed last week when commissioner Jim Delany announced that the Big Ten’s latest TV contract with ESPN/ABC and Fox would include six Friday night games next season.
Michigan reportedly told the Big Ten it will not play on Friday and the league said it is hesitant to host Friday games at schools with massive seating capacities.
The Gophers could be a candidate in future seasons.
The Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC all played Friday night games this season. The SEC only plays Saturday outside of Labor Day weekend.
Here’s the 2017 schedule:
Fri., Sept. 1: Washington at Rutgers
Fri., Sept. 1: Utah State at Wisconsin
Fri., Sept. 8: Ohio at Purdue
Fri., Sept. 29: Nebraska at Illinois
Fri., Oct. 13: Northwestern at Maryland
Fri., Oct. 27: Michigan State at Northwestern