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Friday, May 21, 2010
November night games not impossible in BT

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Excuse the double negative in this headline, but it has a purpose.

I don't want Big Ten fans to get too excited about something I clarified this week at the league's spring meetings in Chicago. But if you want to celebrate, I ain't gonna stop ya.

November night games are possible in the Big Ten, according to league and TV sources.

They're just not very likely right now.

Joe Paterno
According to sources, there was some talk about having Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions face off against Ohio State at night last year.
Last year at the spring meetings, I posted about night games and what I considered to be a league policy prohibiting them after the calendar flips to November. This came on the heels of the announcement that the Ohio State-Penn State game wouldn't be played in prime time, even though it featured the league's two preseason favorites at Beaver Stadium, a fantastic setting for night football.

Turns out, the Big Ten doesn't have a hard-line policy prohibiting November night games.

A contractual provision exists between the Big Ten and its TV partners regarding prime-time games played after Nov. 1. Unless all parties are on board and sign off early in the process -- the prime-time schedule is usually finalized between early March and mid April -- a November night game likely won't happen.

Sources said there was some talk about having the Ohio State-Penn State game at night last year, but the details weren't finalized in time and the game kicked off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

College football at night is truly special, and the Big Ten seems to be warming up to it. Even Michigan is getting in on the trend and will host its first ever night game against rival Notre Dame on Sept. 10, 2011. The Big Ten scheduled 14 prime-time games in 2009 and has 12 scheduled for this season. So things are improving.

Still, it's important for everyone to remember a few things about these games.

1. Schools aren't nearly as jazzed about playing night games as the fans. First off, they're expensive. They require a lot more security and staff and create more logistical headaches than afternoon games. Most Big Ten schools are open to playing one home night game a year and some will schedule two at the most. But sources said it's unrealistic to expect Big Ten schools to start loading up on night games.

2. If a Big Ten school is going to play a night game, there are fewer issues to deal with in September and October because of the weather. And if a good matchup is finalized early in the season, schools are generally less inclined to want additional night games in November.

3. November night games need to be worth it. You need a great matchup, two willing participants and the chance for strong national exposure. ABC and ESPN both selected three games for prime time in each of the past two seasons, and athletic directors covet those opportunities.

4. The Big Ten enjoys its tradition of opening the day in college football with games at noon ET, and it doesn't feel it loses much exposure in the noon and 3:30 p.m. time slots. The Big Ten likely will never become the Big 12 or SEC when it comes to night football.

The Big Ten hasn't hosted a November night game since Iowa visited Minnesota in 2008.

Will we see one in the future? It's possible, but nothing is imminent.