The Big Ten has been experimenting with playing conference games on Friday nights this season, and next year that strategy will hit Minnesota.
The conference on Friday announced that the Gophers’ 2018 home game against Indiana will be played on Friday, Oct. 26, instead of Saturday, Oct. 27.
The change is not sitting well with the Minnesota State High School League, which as of now has its first round of the Class 6A playoffs scheduled for that Friday.
“The university and we have been good partners,” said Dave Stead, executive director of the high school league. “We got a call and [university officials] expressed their disappointment that the Big Ten had scheduled on Friday night. They want to protect Friday nights for high school football as much as they possibly can. They’ve told the Big Ten that they don’t want to play on Friday nights.”
Last spring, high school association directors from Big Ten states met with the conference athletic directors in Chicago and expressed dismay that the Big Ten was considering Friday games.
Stead said the university tried to get the Big Ten to reconsider. “Apparently, the Big Ten was firm in what they said from a scheduling standpoint.”
“While we’re disappointed, we support the university in their efforts to try to help high school football,” Stead added. “It seems like things are out of their hands.”
Stead said that particular Friday creates conflict because the Class 6A playoffs features teams mainly from the Twin Cities metro area.
“We’re going to have to see if we can do some scheduling differently, perhaps on a Thursday night, which we don’t want to do,” Stead said, “or a Saturday night, which will take away because we have all the games in the other classifications playing, so there may be an official shortage. Or we may just have to play on Friday night.”
The game time and TV details will be announced later. The game will be the Gophers’ first Friday contest since Oct. 10, 2003, when they lost to Michigan 38-35 in the Metrodome in a game moved up a day because of a potential Twins playoff game on that Saturday.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany realizes the Friday games aren’t universally popular.
“I think it’s fair to say there’s been pushback,” Delany said during the conference’s media days in July. “It led us to open up even more communication with the high school directors. … And we actually thought that with, I think, eight of the 10 FBS conferences telecasting a little bit on Friday that that would be OK. But we did get pushback.”
Indiana coach Tom Allen was a vocal opponent of the decision.
“I’m very concerned about it,” Allen said at Big Ten media days. “My history as a high school coach for 15 years is strong. It’s who I am, it’s how I started, and it’s been so many years. I think that’s a special night. I don’t like playing games on Friday night. I think that’s high school night.”
Added Stead: “The Big Ten simply said, ‘No, this is what we’re going to do.’ And they jumped in the middle of what we do as high school communities throughout the country.’’