ANN ARBOR — Two days before Halloween, Michigan’s athletic department will face one of its biggest fears: a home football game tonight.
While many schools are embracing prime-time games, Michigan is reluctantly dealing with them.
“We have been consistent in our preference for daytime games,” a spokesperson for the Michigan Athletic Department said this week.
Schools can contribute, but kick-off times are decided by the Big Ten in conjunction with its television partners. Those decision-makers awarded Michigan a 7:30 p.m. ET start against Michigan State on Saturday. ABC will broadcast the game.
Michigan also played a home game against Hawaii earlier this season. Michigan’s other six games — four at home, two away — all started at noon ET. The other potential start time for Big Ten games is 3:30 a.m.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh prefers early starts. He made that clear before Michigan’s last prime-time game against Michigan State in 2017.
“It appeals to my football sensibilities the most,” he said at the time.
This sensitivity is shared by Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. In 2017, he exposed all the problems of a night game, from excessive drinking among fans to night commutes to extra lighting. For a night game, Michigan Stadium staff could work 17 straight hours, he said.
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Manuel was not made available for comment ahead of Saturday’s game, but his office provided a statement that “nothing has changed in the Big Ten schedule or our stance on night games.”
The Big Ten and its affiliate networks — ABC, Big Ten Network, ESPN and FOX, which have hosted four straight Michigan games this season — still control start times for all games except for homecoming contests. house and end of season.
And so Saturday’s game against the Spartans will be Michigan’s 10th home game since the start of the 2017 season.
See also: A history of night games at Michigan Stadium
Many players enjoy competing under the lights of Big House.
“I like night games,” senior offensive lineman Karsen Barnhart said. “They are high time. Especially at the Grande Maison, because the atmosphere there is incredible.
Junior safety RJ Moten said: “I feel like when we play at night everything goes faster, the crowd is louder. There’s just a different feeling on the pitch at night.
A few other players shared those sentiments but noted their preference for midday tee times. “You get up, get straight to the point,” fifth-year offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said. “You don’t have to sit there all day and think about the game.”
There is no consensus among Michigan fans regarding kickoff times.
“The feedback we receive directly on tee times comes from all sides of the issue, with our large fan base having varied and passionate preferences,” the athletic department spokesperson said. “Clearly said, we don’t get more meaningful feedback from fans on night versus day matches.”
Fans can’t agree on night games. Players appreciate the improved atmosphere. And the university wishes every game ended before the sun goes down.
Saturday, it will be dark at kick-off. Michigan will face its in-state rival. It’s Halloween weekend.
For the Michigan Athletic Department, it’s a nightmare.
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