Mark Hollis, athletic director at Michigan State, recently spoke with the Detroit Economic Club about the prospects of Michigan and Michigan State playing under the lights. MLive.com reported that the athletic director is at least open to the possibility, stating:
"The first one will not be (under the lights), the second one is always a possibility,'' Hollis said. "We love night games at Michigan State, we think they have great value, but we also want to ensure it fits with everything else that's around.
"So it's going to depend on how many other night games are on the docket,'' he said. "It's nothing we would say a definite `no' to, but we would evaluate it if the situation arises.''
It is not a definite no, for the 2014 season, but it also is not a definitive yes for the 2014 contest. A contest that is slated to be held in Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, a home game for Hollis' team. It is a game that Sparty should not only be open to, but should be looking to embrace.
Not just for themselves, but for the Big Ten as a whole.
On the micro-level, that night game would be a big-time power play for Mark Dantonio and his staff. A packed stadium against a bitter rival is the best place to bring recruits in for a visit. The atmosphere is electric, and with Brady Hoke beating down the doors on the recruiting trail, any advantage the Spartans can get is a plus.
From the wide-angle view, this game—scheduled for October 25, 2014—is the type of contest the Big Ten truly needs to push to the front of the nation's mind. We all know the Big Ten goes dark in prime time starting in November, there's no need for the league to concede even more ground by starting the absence from the evenings a week earlier.
A look at the current 2013 college football television schedule reveals two very big points. One, that the Big Ten is lacking from a prime-time appearance standpoint. And two, that the major networks are set to blast Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 matchups at viewers in the most critical of months: November.
The Big Ten has six games during the biggest time slots, for the entire season, on the major channels of ABC-ESPN-ESPN2. Meanwhile, the other conferences have left the gates wide open for their television partners to showcase them as decision time approaches. Flex scheduling coupled with tiered rights have yielded high exposure for the best teams as the season reaches its biggest moments.
Fox, with the Big 12 and the Pac-12, grabs their best teams and the best games for prime time showing as the season evolves. ABC/ESPN does the same with the SEC, ACC and the games that Fox leaves hanging on the Big 12 and Pac-12 schedules. CBS, of course, gets first dibs on the SEC's best game for airing nationally against whichever midday contests dare to compete.
Which, throughout the season, is a lot of Big Ten games.
The league is not going to dump the November night game policy in the foreseeable future. However, they need to put more of their quality brands on prime time for the nation to watch when they can. This game between Michigan and Michigan State is a prime example of television real estate in the evening time slot to which the nation pays the most attention.
If ESPN offers, Mark Hollis, for the sake of Sparty and the Big Ten, please just say, "Yes."
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