Big Ten, Ohio State should pay attention to OHSAA playoff moves

The stadium lights illuminate the rain at Atrium Stadium in Franklin on Friday night. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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The stadium lights illuminate the rain at Atrium Stadium in Franklin on Friday night. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

If you were wondering about whether or not Friday night Big Ten football games could affect high school football, it turns out there is already data suggesting it will.

OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross told reporters at the organization’s media advisory committee last week attendance for football playoff games differs significantly between Friday and Saturday nights, a fact attributed in part to the rising profile of college football.

The OHSAA has determined that the increased popularity of college football, in particular statewide interest in Ohio State, which often plays in prime time on Saturday nights, has negatively affected attendance to Saturday high school football playoff games.

“Most of the people who’ve had conversations about this believe Friday night should be high school football night and there are too many conflicts when you get off Friday night,” OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross said during last week’s media advisory committee meeting.

Moving Division I playoff games to Friday nights last year led to a rise in attendance for those games while fewer people attended Division III games when they moved to Saturdays.

Now, if you’re thinking, “But college football has been around since the late 1800s so what’s the difference now?” keep in mind the game has enjoyed an explosion in exposure over the past decade or so.

RELATED: OHSAA might sack Saturday playoff games in favor of Friday nights

Not that long ago, the average fan was likely limited to a handful of televised games on any given Saturday. Now it’s a wall-to-wall smorgasbord of pigskin with multiple games available from noon to midnight and beyond.

In the Big Ten, night games have gone from a novelty to a regular occurrence several times a season in a relatively short period of time, too.

The vast expansion of televised games has come in no small part thanks to the creation of networks for the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12, not to mention ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 and cable channels from CBS and NBC.

RELATED: Ohio State’s decision to back TV partners over prep football is a disgrace

Of course, some people (not ones I’d like to meet, mind you, but they exist) do non-football things on Saturdays, too, and Ross acknowledged other conflicts tend to be more likely to arise there than on Friday nights, but I’m not the only one concerned about the impact of regularly scheduled Big Ten games on Friday nights.

“I like (changing the playoffs schedule) because that’s what I hear from schools and coaches,” Ross said. “What stirred a lot of consternation about all this was Ohio State playing on Friday night.”

While several Big Ten schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, issued statements opposing the Big Ten’s announcement it will begin regularly playing games on Friday nights to support its addiction to TV money, Ohio State reportedly values being a good television partner more.

Maybe this revelation will change their minds.

(Spoiler: It won’t.)

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