The Big Ten is adding Friday night football games, but Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said that the Wolverines aren’t interested in playing in them.
U-M football coach Jim Harbaugh agrees.
“I think Saturday, it’s a Saturday game,” he said on the “Jamie and Stoney” show today on WXYT-FM (97.1). “I’m for traditional Saturdays. Friday is for high school games. That’s my knee-jerk reaction to it.”
The move was reported Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune, but Harbaugh said he hadn’t heard about it until today’s interview.
“We’re going to tee it up at 1 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, we’re not going to play any Friday night games,” Harbaugh said, trying to mimic his former coach Bo Schembechler.
Michigan long has resisted changes, including home night games, which didn’t start in Ann Arbor until 2011.
The Big Ten’s decision to play on Friday nights is tied in to the new TV contract with ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports that begins with the 2017 season. And Harbaugh is OK with the increasing influence of television on game times.
“I don’t think it really bothers me,” he said. “I’m more used to it than it bothers me.”
Unspoken might be that Harbaugh understands that TV contracts enable his program to have so many resources, including paying him $9 million this year.
Michigan’s opposition has to do with its fan base. About 83% of season-ticket holders live outside Washtenaw County, and playing on a Friday would adversely affect their ability to travel to games. The Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau told U-M that more than 90,000 people come to Ann Arbor from outside the county on home game days.
“Michigan is not scheduled to appear in a Friday night football games,” Manuel said in a released statement. “We fully support the Big Ten’s scheduling decisions as well as conference peers who are able to play on Friday nights. With our large fan base, Michigan fans and alumni travel significant distances to attend games, making Saturdays our preferred day for all football games.”