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High Schools Struggle with College Games on Fridays

Jason Scott

High school football on Friday nights is considered a sacred part of life in many areas of the country, and some athletic directors are unhappy with what they see as encroachment by college football into their special day of the week.

The Big Ten Conference, which announced in 2016 that it would begin playing some conference games on Friday nights, was a subject of criticism by high schools throughout the midwest for the policy change, and those criticisms haven’t slowed down. 

Schools across the state of Ohio have scrambled to reschedule or move kickoff times up in order to not compete with the Ohio State football game scheduled for Friday night at Northwestern. 

Perrysburg High School athletic director Chuck Jaco’s Yellow Jackets are scheduled to play their final home game of the season Friday. He told the Toledo Blade that the conflict with the Buckeyes could be detrimental not just to his football team, but to his entire athletics program.

“We’ve got some die-hard Buckeye fans, and they were on a bye week,” Jaco told the Blade. “No one is going to want to miss them two weeks in a row. I think it’s going to have a considerable dent in our gate.”

Perrysburg’s entire athletics budget is about $75,000, according to the Blade, and most of that revenue is generated from the school’s five football home games. Each home game generates between $15,000 and $20,000, and anything brought in by other sports is considered a bonus. Losing out on that revenue from fans who stay home to watch the Buckeyes strikes a sour note.

“Buckeye football is not meant for Friday nights,” Jaco told the Blade.

He’s not alone in that belief.

Football coaches across the state, and even at the collegiate level within the Big Ten, have continually expressed their displeasure with playing on Friday nights.

“If Ohio State is playing, there’s a niche of fans that are going to watch. Period,” Central Catholic coach Greg Dempsey told the Blade. “I always thought Friday night lights were for Friday night lights. But it’s just the nature of television and college football. It’s part of the landscape.”

The Big Ten began playing Friday night games in 2017, as part of its multibillion dollar television contract.

“I don’t like it,” Penn State football coach James Franklin said. “Friday nights are for high school football, Saturday is for college, and Sunday is for the NFL. The Friday, Saturday, Sunday model has worked for a long time, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has said that he’s sure high school programs don’t appreciate college football moving to Fridays, but said what the league decides is outside his control.

“I try not to worry about that,” Day told the Blade. “When the schedule comes out, we’re going to go play wherever they tell us to play. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that, because it’s not really under my control or something that I can worry about.”

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