Michigan State. Penn State. Ford Field. Black Friday.
On Wednesday, the Michigan State football program announced its regular-season finale with Penn State has moved – both in date and location – to accommodate the Big Ten's new media and television contract with NBC. The Spartans and Nittany Lions will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on NBC and Peacock and follow Iowa vs. Nebraska, which will occur on Nov. 24 in a to-be-determined time slot.
"This is a unique opportunity, for both our football program and our fan base, to play a Black Friday game at Ford Field," Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement. "Southeast Michigan is home to 100,000 alums, nearly 50 percent of our student body and countless more Spartan fans. Our men's basketball team has experienced tremendous support in Detroit, both at Ford Field and Little Caesars Arena, and we're excited to bring Spartan Football to our fans in the Motor City. The city is important to our mission not only as an athletic department but our entire university. We anticipate that the experience will be so much more than a football game for our Spartan faithful.
"The decision to move a home game out of Spartan Stadium was given careful consideration, as we understand the impact it will have on some fans. As a community partner, we recognize home football brings benefits to the entire Mid-Michigan area. The fact that this game falls on a holiday weekend Friday increased our willingness to make the move. I believe our season ticket holders still have a strong collection of home games highlighted by Michigan and a premier non-conference game against Washington, with a total of six home games just as we had in 2021."
Michigan State and Penn State will battle in Detroit 31 hours after the Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers at 12:30 p.m. at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day. Additionally, to make room for the Spartans and Nittany Lions' matchup in the Motor City, the Michigan High Schools Athletic Association agreed to move its eight state championship games to Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 at Ford Field.
"The MHSAA has enjoyed a long relationship with two of our best partners, Michigan State University and Ford Field," MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said. "Our athletes have incredible experiences both on the Michigan State campus and Ford Field with our championship events. Given the unique opportunities of this fall, the MHSAA was proud to play a small part in making the puzzle work with Ford Field, Michigan State Athletics and the Big Ten Conference, while still preserving all eight of our games on Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field."
"Making the puzzle work," as Uyl said, has been the job description for Tony Petitti since he was announced as Big Ten commissioner last month.
According to a report from ESPN's Pete Thamel on Sunday, Petitti has had his hands full with "horse trading" between media companies and athletic departments, handling unhappy coaches, athletic directors and television executives and a laundry list of other obstacles – such as millions of dollars in reimbursement to FOX and NBC for the Big Ten's failure to uphold previous and current contractual obligations – that must be addressed before the college football season starts in September.
For those reasons, Petitti thanked Michigan State, Penn State, NBC and the Detroit Lions for their collaboration to make this process as seamless as possible.
"The Big Ten Conference is thrilled that Michigan State will be hosting Penn State at Ford Field in prime time on NBC," Petitti said. "We are incredibly grateful for the collaboration between our member institutions, broadcast partners, Ford Field and the Detroit Lions to provide this unique opportunity and incredible exposure for our student-athletes on Black Friday."
Michigan State has only played once at Ford Field, a 30-17 victory over Florida Atlantic on Sept. 11, 2010, at Ford Field. However, it will be the Spartans' second game in Detroit since its inception in 1896, as MSU defeated Wayne State, 32-0, on Oct. 27, 1944, at the University of Detroit Stadium.
In Michigan State football's press release, head coach Mel Tucker said he looks forward to leading the Spartans to its third win in the city this fall.
"This is an exciting opportunity for our program to play in prime time on a holiday weekend," Tucker said. "Our players will be able to compete in an NFL environment while being showcased in the national spotlight. I'm looking forward to our fans creating a loud atmosphere and giving us a home-field advantage at Ford Field."