As we soldier on through this never-ending off season, things that often get overlooked during the fall are often brought up and discussed on blogs, message boards, etc. But one topic that seems the never go away is the idea of bringing night games to Michigan Stadium.
Michigan blogger UMxWolverines (via mgoblog) sent me an email yesterday asking to help support his grass-roots cause to petition for night games at the Big House.
I've been a solid supporter for a while now of night games, and the benefit that they could bring to not only the win column, but also in terms of recruiting and prime-time television exposure. Of course, Michigan plays at least two marquee home games each year. Whether its Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State or tOSU, there is never a shortage of good games that could be worthy of a large television audience in prime-time on a Saturday night.
But for some reason or another, night games (games that start after dark) have yet to happen at Michigan.
Much of that, I think, can be attributed to the traditional nature of college football, and more specifically football at Michigan. Bo always wanted to play at 1PM. If they wanted to televise it, they could. But we all know that things have changed in recent years. Television dominates not only kickoff times, but scheduling in general.
But that still doesn't really explain why it has taken so long (with still no end in sight) to having a honest to goodness night game at Michigan.
And the reason, I believe, is two-fold.
The city of Ann Arbor
It should be noted that Michigan Stadium is located basically on the edge of campus...surrounded by neighborhoods. It takes a small army of campus patrol and Ann Arbor police to keep the crowds safe and to get people back to their cars and on their way after a game.
A population of over 100,000 people descend on Ann Arbor for a few hours each Saturday in the fall...and that causes a huge amount of work for the public services that address the needs of the influx of people. If kickoff isn't until 8PM, those services will need to be working from dawn until well past midnight Sunday morning...at an extraordinary cost to the city.
But it can also be argued that the cost/benefit would be comparable due to the added revenue of having the city's population doubled for an extra 6-10 hours one day a year. All of those people have to eat and drink somewhere. That stimulates the local economy. Maybe lots bump their parking fees 20% for a night game? Who knows. I'm sure finding ways for people to spend their money would not be a problem.
The Athletic Department
Gone are the days of Bo and Lloyd. They were about as old-school as you can get. Don't get me wrong, I loved those days, and I'm still a traditionalist at heart. But the times they are a changin'. And Michigan needs to change with them. There was a time when the big schools played during the daytime, and the small schools had to play at night to be able to get television exposure. But then a funny thing happened. The small schools started to schedule the big schools for night games, and the TV crews followed. Those games turned out to be awesome match ups, and people tuned in.
Now the big schools, often in the south, play at night because northern schools dominate the daytime TV schedules. Why this is...I don't know. It just seems to be the way things are. But now thanks to ABC and ESPN, and to some extent the Big Ten Network...good games are being played at night all over the country. And scheduling a marquee home game at night is all the rage.
Michigan's brass has been pretty against doing this for a while now. Why? Who knows. Maybe they thought they were above doing such things to spur excitement. But I'll stack a night game against any of Michigan rivals up against a noon or 3:30 kickoff any day.
Even games that have started at 3:30 and ended in the dark have been twice as exciting as a daytime game. There is just something about the atmosphere at Michigan Stadium at night. Those winged helmets and blue uniforms glowing under the portable lights. The crowd has a certain buzz (possibly from the alcohol) that just cannot be captured during the daytime. But even on television, those games just feel more exciting.
I have to believe that Rodriguez is and will continue to effort a night game in the next couple seasons. One good sign that changes are occurring in the AD's office is the announcement of a hockey game against Sparty at the Big House in 2010. You have no idea how huge that is. It will be the first ever non-football event held in the Big House outside of a graduation ceremony. That is a good sign that the regents and the administration is seeing the writing on the wall.
There are a couple good games this year that could potentially be a night kickoff. Notre Dame on Sept. 12th, Penn State on Oct. 24th, or tOSU on Nov. 21st. Any of those could be aired on ABC/ESPN or BTN and would draw a huge audience.
If the city could find a way to get past the idea that they would not benefit from such an event, and the athletic department would see the huge upside to this for not only their football program, but the department as a whole...then night games will happen at Michigan. I think Bill Martin and Rich Rodriguez want this to happen. And those are the two guys who's opinions matter the most.
If you feel that Michigan should host a night game, and want your voice to be heard (I'm not exactly sure by whom), then do as I did, and sign the petition mentioned above, by clicking on the "Sign Petition" button on the widget in the middle sidebar. -->
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