The “there are too many bowl games” crowd seems to have gained some new friends (or moved on to a new cause). The latest rant against when college football should be played? Friday games.
An accepted practice in the Group of Five and even some of the Power 5, Friday games have been the subject of renewed debate due to consternation over the Big Ten's decision to begin playing such games this fall. An Iowa state legislator is trying is to ban Friday college football games, and Michigan and Penn State announced they wanted to no part of the Big Ten’s Friday Night Lights. Most recently, Northwestern successfully lobbied to get its two Friday games (at Maryland on Oct. 13 and vs. Michigan State on Oct. 27) moved to Saturdays.
Fans have mostly gotten behind the anti-Friday game movement, complaining of conflicts with work, traffic and limited time to tailgate. In an unscientific poll of on SB Nation, Friday ranked as the worst day for college football, behind even Sunday.
But why are fans resisting the move so vigorously? Have we learned nothing from the greatness of Tuesday night MACtion and Wednesday night FunBelt?
Like those who call for fewer bowl games, those who stand in opposition to Friday games are arguing against being able to watch more college football. Saturdays are packed as is. From noon until 2 a.m., when the last West Coast game wraps up (or later if Hawaii is hosting), you can already watch multiple games at a time. And even with a multi-screen setup, you’re missing most games.
So why not move some to a less-packed time a day earlier? It’s understandable why Friday games are not ideal for fans trying to attend the games, but we’re several decades past in-stadium attendance being the primary audience for college football. For the vast majority of fans watching on TV, more Friday games would be a huge boon.
And keep in mind that no one is planning to move the Iron Bowl or The Game to Fridays. Take the two Northwestern games the Wildcats got moved off of Fridays for example. The kickoff time for Northwestern-Maryland hasn’t been announced, but I feel relatively confident that no matter what timeslot it gets, there will be a better game on. Wildcats fans and Terrapins fans will watch, but the rest of the college football world will be focused elsewhere. If that game had stayed on a Friday as originally scheduled, it could have drawn a bigger audience. Northwestern and Maryland fans still would have tuned in, but so would have fans out at bars and others in their homes. It might have turned out to the best game in the Friday night timeslot.
More college football on at a greater variety of times is a good thing. It’s good for small conference teams and mid- and lower-tier power conference teams to get more national exposure. And it’s good for fans who would pick watching college football over anything else on TV.
Conferences like the Big Ten are exploring Friday games to make more money, but this is a case when their greed aligns with the public’s interest. We should all get on board.