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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Purdue left in the dark with night games

By Adam Rittenberg

I always enjoy my visits with Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke. As the Big Ten's longest-tenured AD -- he took over in 1993 -- Burke has an interesting perspective on how the league has changed and evolved over the years.

But I have to wonder whether he's stuck in the past regarding night football.

Purdue, as some are well aware, is the only Big Ten team not playing a true night game this season. The Boilers had one night contest -- a home game against Notre Dame -- in 2011, and they likely could have hosted another marquee opponent at night this season.

From The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier:
"I probably could've had a night game with Michigan, but I lobbied them for late afternoon so it wouldn't be late for our people to get home," Burke said.

He later added:
"I realize there are some people out there that feel that's a real benefit. They have to stand back, as do I, and look at it from every possible angle. I know there's a vocal group who feel that's the right thing to do, but they don't have any logic other than it would be nice to have a night game."

Purdue's Oct. 4 game against Michigan will kick off at 4 p.m. ET. Had it been a true prime-time game, kickoff would have been at 8 p.m. ET or 7 p.m. ET, meaning the game would finish somewhere between 10:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Michael Floyd
Last season, Purdue's only home night game came Oct. 1 against Notre Dame.
I understand Burke has to look at the bigger picture, and it's nice to prevent older fans from driving long distances late at night. But one night game a year, on a Saturday night, particularly against an opponent like Michigan, isn't asking too much. For a Purdue team trying to increase attendance and generate more buzz, having the Michigan game at 7 or 8 p.m. makes total sense. Fans attending Purdue basketball games that tip off at 8 or 9 p.m. don't seem to mind the late-night drives home.

The logic here is simple: night football is more exciting. Night games are great showcase opportunities for programs, and they're great for television. Most fans love them. Students who don't normally attend day games will show up for night games. It's why you're seeing more and more night games around the country every year.

Other Big Ten teams in similar positions to Purdue -- looking to boost attendance and attract more attention -- have been receptive to night games. Indiana has been especially open to them since the Big Ten Network launched. The Hoosiers have three home games at night this season (Indiana State, Ball State and Ohio State). Minnesota and Northwestern also have been open to home night games. Both teams have one home game at night this year after having two each in 2011.

The subplot to Purdue's issue is a resistance to install permanent lights at Ross-Ade Stadium. Burke told me last week at the Big Ten spring meetings, "They [fans] want me to put lights in, and I keep fighting them and say, 'Why do I want to put lights in if ABC and ESPN will pay for it?'"

Indiana's Memorial Stadium, as Purdue fans know, has permanent lights. So does Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.

It's unlikely Purdue goes without a true night game in 2013, as Notre Dame returns to West Lafayette. The Boilers-Irish games at Ross-Ade almost always take place at night. But for the most part, Purdue home games kick off at noon ET.

Michigan still can get away with such an approach in today's college football environment. But Purdue should be doing all it can to showcase its program, and this seems like a missed opportunity.