Let’s cut the bull, shall we? When television gets involved, sacred cows are just biding their time to become a hamburger combo.
Friday night Big Ten football was just the first strike, kids.
There will be more Thursdays.
The odd Labor Day weekend Sunday night.
Maybe even a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Look out, #MACtion. Jim Delany’s coming for you, Nielsens in hand.
As long as bills have to be paid — and by bills, we mean coaches and facilities — the cats doling out the bread get to pick the venue, the band and the set list.
To put it another way: Have you looked, really looked, at a college basketball television schedule lately? All days, all hours, all continents. When you tell them it’s about money, they’ll say it’s about academics. When you tell them it’s about academics, they’ll say it’s about money.
The next time an athletic director brags about the scholastic sanctity of his institution, ask him why the devil Green Bay is playing Pacific at 11 p.m. California time and Niagara is playing Hartford at 6:30 in the morning. (Nov. 14-15, ESPN. For real.)
Homework, my patootie.
“All things considered,” Delany, the Big Ten’s commissioner, told the Chicago Tribune, “we thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe in the water.”
Actually, we’re thinking it more likely that it went down like this:
FOX SUIT: Jim, FS1 needs some Friday night juice.
DELANY: Sorry, but no thanks. We value traditions in this conference.
(FOX SUIT pulls out checkbook, scribbles furiously. Hands DELANY a check. DELANY stares at said check for a second, then looks up.)
DELANY: We have a new tradition.
Partnerships with ESPN, Fox and CBS are expected to bring a collective $440 million annually to the league’s coffers, and that’s not counting whatever the Big Ten Network rakes in. The Big Ten reportedly distributed $32.4 million to each of its 11 fully vested members at the end of the 2014-15 school year, and reports have estimated that number could swell to $55 million-$57 million per vested program in 2017.
Whatever TV wants, TV gets.
In the meantime, just like the nine-game conference schedule, all the coaches can do is play the spin game, shrug and say they do what they’re told:
Harbaugh on Friday night football: Didn’t know anything about that. I think it’s a Saturday game.
— Rachel Lenzi (@RLenziCMG) November 3, 2016
Kirk Ferentz calls Friday night Big Ten games a “sign of the times”https://t.co/DKASIRh0vJ
— Bobby La Gesse (@BobbyLaGesse) November 3, 2016
Nobody’s thrilled, until they see the deposit slip. Even their bosses know when a financial win is a public relations loss, and it was more than a little hysterical watching each institution react with varying degrees of grievance to the impositions caused by the cash grab:
Illinois: Sure, cool, whatever you like
Indiana: We’ll do it every three years
Iowa: We’ll only do Labor Day weekend
Maryland: What Illinois said
Michigan: To hell with you
Michigan State: What Iowa said
Minnesota: Pass the lutefisk
Nebraska: What Indiana said
Northwestern: What Maryland said
Ohio State: Only the second week of October, otherwise, what Michigan said
Purdue: We love it, awesome
Rutgers: Yeah, OK, fine, whatever
Penn State: On the road, maybe, if you’re nice
Wisconsin: We’ll only do it prior to Labor Day weekend
Generally speaking, the bigger you are, and the more seats you fill with fannies on a weekend, the more conditions attached.
Like the NFL and London, this is an everybody-please-take-one-for-the-league kind of deal, logic be damned. Still, all signs point to Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers and Minnesota — six of the league’s bottom seven home draws (Indiana was the other) in 2015 — jumping to the front of the line.
“We avoided it for years,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Associated Press. “We thought we could do it in a limited way, which is why we established some parameters around it.”
High school associations around the footprint were justifiably horrified at this week’s announcement, although given that the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 had long since crossed that threshold at network behest, they also had to know it was coming.
The WFCA does not support Big Ten’s decision to play college games on Friday nights. Further comment & info will be provided in coming days.
— WiFCA (@wifca) November 2, 2016
Friday nights belong to HS kids, local communities, and HS Football. A little Extra $ isn’t more important than what HS football provides
— IHSFCA (@IHSFCA1) November 2, 2016
In principle, it absolutely isn’t. But until Kirk Ferentz and Jim Harbaugh are groovy with doing this for free, the tail continues to wag the dog. And the dog’s gotta eat.