When it comes to Big Ten Friday night tailgates, where’s the money?

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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is a stickler for some traditions staying the same, but he has always been one open to new ideas. The Big Ten’s partnership with the Rose Bowl will likely stay in place for a long time, but Delany has seen the conference expand twice (Penn State, Nebraska) and ha a third expansion on the way this year (Rutgers and Maryland are on the way). Delany has also seen his conference launch the conference network craze. Now Delany and the Big Ten are caught up in the conversation about playing college football on Friday. Delany’s track record suggests it is a more realistic possibility than many may want to admit.

As first reported by Madison.com, Delany is surveying Big Ten members to see if Friday night football is something that would be embraced by the conference. He needs to know this before heading in to the next round of media rights negotiations. More on that later. The conference is also evaluating the possibility of playing night games in November.

The argument against Friday football is the same for the Big Ten as it would be for any of the other power conferences. Playing on Friday causes travel problems for a large number of fans who make the voyage to their favorite college football cathedrals for home games. This varies from school to school of course, and the turnout for games would likely vary from school to school as well. Schools with a rabid fan base would likely still turn in a decent attendance for a Friday night game in a Big Ten stadium, but asking fans to take off a day of work, or leave early, could lead to more empty seats than a Saturday afternoon game would offer.

Oh, but at least that Big Ten game would be on national television instead of shuffled in a crowded Saturday television line-up, right? Ultimately this is what the biggest benefit is for any conference trying to take a stake in Friday night football. There is a reason some of the other conferences and BYU have embraced playing in Friday nights. The Mountain West Conference has also embraced Friday nights to get out of the shadows of the other conferences like the Pac 12 and Big 12. Similarly, the MAC has taken advantage of other days of the week by playing games on Wednesdays. The Sun Belt Conference has done the same. But weeknight games is not off limits for the other conferences as well. Thursday night games have been a staple for Big 12, ACC and SEC schools over the years, although the Pac 12 is looking to cut back on those weeknight games in the future. It gives the schools playing in the game a chance to gain a little extra national exposure, even if there are a few extra empty seats.

So what carries more weight, the empty seats or the television exposure? What it all comes down to is what brings in more dollars, and that may actually benefit the Friday night games stance.

The Big Ten has a deal in place with ESPN through 2017 for regular season football games and with FOX Sports for the Big Ten championship game. Those contracts expire in 2017 and 2016, respectively. As all conference attempt to maximize the earnings on future media rights, adding a Friday night plan to the conversation could lead to more possibilities to make a buck. If you have learned nothing else from the past few years of media rights and conference realignment, it should be that when money talks, schools and conferences walk. Maybe the realignment environment has settled, but media rights will continue to drive a big price tag with a need to maximize the return investment.

The Big Ten could always use Friday nights to add to the Big Ten Network line-up, but with more sports networks available looking for live content (including NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network and FOX Sports 1) to compete with ESPN, there could always be some potential partners willing to explore the idea.

If common sense prevails, the Big Ten will stick to playing games on Saturdays and only Saturdays. If money trumps common sense, get ready to save up your vacation days Big Ten fans because you are going to need off on a Friday at some point.

Iowa loses RB James Butler ‘at least through the bye’

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Iowa sat Akrum Wadley for much of Saturday’s 31-14 win over North Texas after he was flagged for a (frankly ridiculous) excessive celebration penalty for high-stepping his way to the Kinnick Stadium end zone. (The score was wiped off the board, but Iowa completed the drive with a touchdown anyway.) The Hawkeyes will have no choice but to give him carries now.

Running back James Butler (20) has injured an elbow that will keep him out for the next few weeks.

“I think James will be out through the bye week,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said, via Hawkeye Report. “It will be a couple of weeks before we get him back.”

A Nevada transfer with two 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, Butler was a graduate transfer addition to the Hawkeyes, announcing his transfer on July 4. He ranks second on the club with 36 carries for 158 yards thus far in 2017, carrying a season-high 16 times for 74 yards before the injury.

Butler’s carries figure to go to fellow senior Wadley and freshmen Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Wadley leads the club with 60 carries for 258 yards and a touchdown, and Young and Kelly-Martin have combined to rush 30 times for 152 yards and two scores. Young made his debut in Wadley’s absence in the second half Saturday, rushing 19 times for 78 yards.

The 3-0 Hawkeyes host No. 4 Penn State on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), then visit undefeated Michigan State the week after (4 p.m. ET, FOX). Iowa will host Illinois before its Oct. 14 bye week.

Lincoln Riley to earn $3.1 million a year as OU head coach

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Lincoln Riley won’t be paid nearly as much as Bob Stoops was as Oklahoma’s head coach, but he’ll earn significantly more than he did as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma approved and released Riley’s new deal on Tuesday, a 5-year contract that pays him $3.1 million annually and rises $200,000 a year. Stoops made $5.5 million in his last season, according to USA Today, while Riley earned $900,000 as offensive coordinator.

Perks include 25 hours of private airplane use, not one but two private golf club membership, and bonuses ranging from $25,000 for winning Big 12 coach of the year honors to $250,000 for a national championship.

Riley is 3-0 in his young tenure, already proving himself to be a tremendous bargain for the Sooners.

SEC releases 2018 schedule

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The SEC released its 2018 slate on Tuesday, beginning the weekend of Sept. 1 and running through the SEC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1. It would be entirely pointless to break down winners and losers of the ’18 slate considering we don’t really even know who’s good yet in 2017 — other than Alabama — and we especially don’t know who will be good in ’18 — other than ‘Bama, of course.

But we can point out some dates that look interesting as we sit here on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the year of our Lord 2017. And, no, intra-divisional games don’t count, since they are played every year.

  • Auburn vs. Washington — Sept. 1 (at Atlanta)
  • Alabama vs. Louisville — Sept. 1 (at Orlando)
  • LSU vs. Miami — Sept. 1 (at Dallas)
  • Tennessee vs. West Virginia (at Charlotte)
  • Clemson at Texas A&M — Sept. 8
  • Vanderbilt at Notre Dame — Sept. 15
  • Florida at Mississippi State — Sept. 29
  • Tennessee at Auburn — Oct. 13

Consult the full schedule here. 

Louisville-Ole Miss 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff opener made official

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After reports had signaled it, it’s a done deal.

The “it” in this case is Louisville opening the 2021 season against Ole Miss, with the two programs confirming Tuesday that they will square off in one of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games that year.  The game will be played at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, although a date and kickoff time are still to be determined.

The 2021 game will mark the first-ever meeting between the football teams.  Each has made one previous appearance in the Kickoff Game, Louisville in 2015 (31-24 loss to Auburn) and Ole Miss in 2014 (35-13 win over Boise State).

“To have the opportunity to play in this game again for the second time is a huge win for our program,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said in a statement. “We are honored to be welcomed back by the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, which is a tremendous testament to our loyal fan base, who helped pack the stadium in 2015. Our fans have a great history of traveling, and to have the opportunity to play a great program like Ole Miss in this brand-new facility will certainly be a hot ticket for the fans. Gary Stokan and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl group do a tremendous job with this game and we appreciate them selecting Louisville for what has become the premier game to kick off the season.”

“We are thrilled to once again be part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. We always set the goal to end the regular season in Atlanta, so it’s only fitting that’s where we begin it,” Jurich’s Ole Miss counterpart, Ross Bjork, said in his. “With our strong alumni base in Georgia, Rebel Nation will arrive in full force to experience this premier matchup in the nation’s finest new stadium. In addition, the Atlanta market is a key recruiting area for our staff, and this trip offers a tremendous opportunity to compete in front of those prospects.”

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Alabama and Miami would square off in the other Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game the opening weekend of the 2021 season.