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More on the November night games policy

5/19/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- The recent announcement that a Nov. 7 game between Ohio State and Penn State won't be played at night because of a league policy prohibiting November night games created quite a stir within Big Ten Nation.

And after watching the Big 12 play four Saturday night showcase games last November, who can blame Big Ten fans? Especially Penn State supporters who live for night-game Whiteouts at Beaver Stadium.

Big Ten relevancy in November and December certainly is a healthy debate these days, but it's important to know the reasoning behind the policy.

Mark Rudner, the Big Ten's associate commissioner for television administration, explained the November night games policy to me before today's league meetings got under way. Though I don't agree with the league's position, it's important to understand get the full picture.

Some key points:

  • This is not a new policy. It has been in place for quite some time and probably wouldn't be a big deal if it didn't affect what looks like the marquee conference game of the 2009 season. The Big Ten has no plans to revisit the policy, and any change likely wouldn't be made until the league renews its TV contract in the distant future.

  • Weather certainly is a factor, but it's not the only factor. The Big Ten is simply not a conference that traditionally plays games at night, and that tradition still matters. There's no Tiger Stadium At Night in the Big Ten. Rudner noted that the league still plays night games in September and October -- 14 in all -- and sees the value in doing so, but it doesn't lose much exposure because all of its games are nationally televised. He also really values the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff time, which has become the Big Ten's showcase game in recent years. 

  • Night games present a logistical nightmare that most fans can't fully comprehend. From getting fans in and out of mammoth stadiums to policing the areas -- all in potentially lousy weather -- these events present some tough obstacles. Though many of the same challenges are present with September and October night games, the November weather compounds things. 

  • Expect the Big Ten to start scheduling potential marquee games like Ohio State-Penn State in October, like last year's game (Oct. 25). The league schedule is set through 2012, but don't expect to see Ohio State-Penn State in November many more times beyond that point. End-of-season rivalry games like Ohio State-Michigan, Iowa-Minnesota and Purdue-Indiana won't move out of the noon ET or 3:30 p.m. ET time slots.