CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati area high school football has been played on Friday nights since at least the late 1940s.
But that tradition may be directly impacted from a fan and financial aspect after last week’s news that the Big Ten plans to play six games on Friday night starting in 2017.
“There was a time when Fridays were set aside for high school football,” St. Xavier coach Steve Specht told WCPO.com Sunday. “Saturdays were for college and Sundays for the NFL. The pursuit of the almighty dollar has ruined that.”
The Sports Business Journal reported the Big Ten’s new television rights deal is worth $2.64 billion over the next six years for ESPN/ABC and Fox, according to the Columbus Dispatch. There will also be 12 Saturday night games in 2017.
“We battled for a long time to try to be respectful obviously for high school football,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith told the Dispatch. “But the reality is what we need to do for our television partners and what we need to do for our revenue stream, we needed to consider some different options.”
Ohio State will host one of the Friday night games in mid-October, but just once every three years, the Dispatch reported. The Buckeyes are supposed to play a road game during its fall break of 2017 and the schedule may be announced this week.
Jerry Emig, Ohio State’s sports information director for football, told WCPO.com he wasn’t sure the last time Ohio State played on a Friday night -- if ever.
Ohio State’s 2010 season opener was played on a Thursday -- the first time the Buckeyes played on a day other than Saturday since 1997 when it played on a Thursday night.
“I always thought there was an unwritten rule that Friday was for high school,” said Mark Porter, director of ScoutingOhio.com. “Over the years on Saturday I can tell you when OSU is playing based on the (high school) game times Saturday. Not one tries to play at the same time as OSU.”
Cincinnati-area coaches and athletic directors expressed disappointment with the decision this past weekend.
Ohio High School Athletic Association spokesman Tim Stried said the Big Ten did not consult with the Ohio high school governing body before last week’s announcement.
The OHSAA has used social media as a vehicle to express opposition and will continue to do so. The Ohio High School Football Coaches’ Association is in the process of releasing a statement. The association will meet in December in Columbus and this figures to be a hot topic.
The Big Ten’s decision could hurt high schools’ gate revenue in September and October. Some of the other Big Ten schools may face a severe backlash especially among recruiting circles.
“It’s a lose-lose situation,” Stried said.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh disagrees with the conference decision while other schools have expressed concern or reservations.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has not addressed the topic publicly but has his weekly news conference Monday where the topic may be brought up.
Colerain assistant coach Dan Bolden, the Cardinals’ former athletic director, has a unique perspective. His son Joe was a standout linebacker at Michigan and now an assistant coach. Another son, Daniel, is a junior linebacker at Colerain.
“Parents with a college player playing that (Friday) night would not be attending the local high school game,” Dan Bolden said. “What if the parent has a high school player and a college player both playing on Friday night? That, in part, is why (Division I) playoff football games have been moved to Friday nights; to increase attendance at games and avoid a conflict with college football. What about the casual football fan who picks his local high school game to attend on Friday night just to watch football? Does he or she now stay home and watch the Big Ten game?”
Lakota West Athletic Director Scott Kaufman, who is on the Southwest District Athletic Board, wonders how much the conference is set to gain financially given the public relations backlash.
“I am deeply disappointed that a school the caliber of the Ohio State University would choose to support an insignificant financial gain over supporting high schools’ student-athletes and high school athletic departments,” Kaufman said.
“It saddens me that (Michigan) and the NFL get it and Ohio State does not. I truly question the leadership and integrity of the Ohio State administration, who either fails to recognize the unintended consequences of a decision like this or, even worse, chooses to overlook it for their own financial gain.”
Elder coach Doug Ramsey, whose son Peyton is a freshman quarterback at Indiana, doesn’t like the idea either. Doug Ramsey, who just completed his 20th year, doesn't like how college athletics pursues decisions on big money deals.
“I don’t like it,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think it’s right. The Big Ten doesn’t need money that badly. Friday nights are for high school players -- it’s their night. I don’t like when UC does it. (The Big Ten decision) won’t affect attendance in Cincinnati very much but it will have an affect on schools throughout the state. There is too much greed in college athletics. You think they would learn from what is going on in the NFL.”
Of the OHSAA's 822 member schools, 716 schools play football - the majority of whom play Friday nights.
Kings coach Andy Olds said the Big Ten's decision "undermines and could be the beginning of lessening the importance of high school football and the high school coach in general."
"I personally see once again yet another example of "big business" (major college football) making a move to begin the process of making "small business" (high school football) insignificant," Olds said. "Ohio State is simply biting the hand that helps feed their program, that would be the high school coach and their program."