The Big Ten has slowly been warming up to the concept of playing night games in November. Could 2014 be the season the Big Ten plays under the primetime lights in the final month of the regular season?
“We’re more [amenable] to that first November Saturday,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told ESPN.com, “and I think some of us will be willing to look at that second Saturday in November if the contest is right.”
Translation: The Big Ten is considering it, but not quite ready to make it official.
The Big Ten has long been against playing night games in November, primarily for weather concerns. It’s cold in the Big Ten in November, and temperatures only go down at night. Has the Big Ten suffered by not playing night games in November over time? Probably not, considering the big money media packages the conference has lined up, although not having some of the best teams and best games on in a national spotlight time slot does have an impact on how a particular team or the conference can be viewed by the public, or the media.
Night games bring a certain level of enthusiasm for games, and younger fans get fired up for them far more than a noon kickoff. Some night games have brought record attendance figures in the Big Ten as well, so there does seem to be a benefit to adding at least one more primetime game on the schedule if possible. It helps if the conference has a game worth placing in a prime time slot though. Looking at the Big Ten’s 2014 schedule, that does not appear to be the case as it things look right now on the first weekend of November, but Ohio State’s road trip to Michigan State on November 8 could be worth considering.
What can be said about the Big Ten is they are willing to embrace changes to conference philosophies. The Big Ten’s recent expansions (Nebraska in 2011, Maryland and Rutgers in 2014) helped lead to the extension of the regular season schedule and a conference championship game. That ended up stretching the Big Ten season to the final day of the season instead of being left idle while the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 were still playing games.
The Big Ten does not really need to play extra night games, but if there are a few extra bucks to be made you can bet Jim Delany and the conference will find a way to make it.