Ohio State is set to take on Michigan State under the lights at the Shoe on Nov. 11, but it may be the last time the Buckeyes host a night game that late in the year for the foreseeable future.
The Buckeye football program, and several others around the Big Ten, have long preferred not to kick off contests in a primetime slot during the late stages of the regular season, which made last month’s announcement of the 7:30 p.m. mid-November tilt on NBC all the more peculiar. But given the Big Ten’s new TV rights deal with CBS, FOX and NBC, it appeared a concession was made.
However, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told Eleven Warriors it won’t become a regularity. Moving forward, the Buckeyes will only entertain the prospect of a night game past the first weekend of November if it is on the road and under the right set of circumstances, Smith said.
“We will not do it in the future at home. We might do it away,” Smith said during an interview on this week’s edition of Real Pod Wednesdays. “If a colleague calls from another school and said, 'Hey, would you be willing to play a night game at our place?' We have to make that call. Both athletic directors have to agree on that. And so usually I would talk to Ryan (Day) and see if we're interested in doing that and we will say yes or no. But it depends on who it is, where it is or what time our team might get back. That always plays a role into their plan. If there's a second Saturday in November and we're somewhere and our team doesn't get back until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, that might be a problem.”
Aside from the obvious climate concerns and potential issues with the health and recovery time for student-athletes late in the season, Smith said such contests also create conflicts for season-ticket holders who travel to Ohio State games from out of town.
“I always think about that couple in Canton, Ohio, who's 70-something-years-old, season-ticket holders,” Smith said. “And we really create a problem for them already how we announce our game times. But for them to have to make a decision to come to a night game the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I just would prefer to take that burden off of them. And normally they can come to a noon game or a 3:30 kick and get back home as opposed to trying to get a hotel room. So that's been our rationale, just one of them, our rationale for not doing that.”
|Sept. 2||at INDIANA||3:30 p.m.||CBS|
|Sept. 9||YOUNGSTOWN STATE||Noon||BTN|
|Sept. 16||WESTERN KENTUCKY||4 p.m.||FOX|
|Sept. 23||at NOTRE DAME||7:30 p.m.||NBC|
|Oct. 7||MARYLAND||Noon/3:30/4 p.m.||TBA|
|Oct. 14||at PURDUE||TBA||TBA|
|Oct. 21||PENN STATE||TBA||TBA|
|Oct. 28||at WISCONSIN||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 4||at RUTGERS||TBA||TBA|
|Nov. 11||MICHIGAN STATE||7:30 p.m.||NBC|
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported last month that there was pushback from several Big Ten schools, including Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, to playing late-November night games under the conference’s new contract with NBC. Per the report, multiple programs weren't asked for permission to play them before the deal was made under previous Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
Smith said “individual tolerances” between Big Ten programs and TV networks are nothing new, and cited teams’ willingness to play Friday night games as another example in previous years.
“When we started the FOX relationship and Big Ten Network deal, every school in the league decided what their individual tolerances would be. Friday night games, for example,” Smith said. “We will only play a Friday night game in Columbus at Ohio State if we're on fall break, for example. Obviously, you've seen other Friday night games at other schools that don't have that restriction. There are schools in our league, like us, who always said after the first Saturday in November, we will not play night games at home. And so that's been our policy for a long time.”
For Ohio State, it appears any tolerance to amend that policy past the upcoming season will be obsolete.