Ohio State fans are accustomed to their Buckeyes playing on Saturday. Football schedules generally work out so that Friday night is for high school ball, Saturday is for college, and Sunday is for the NFL.
Of course, television money has thrown a bit of a wrench into that standard schedule. That’s the case for Ohio State this week, with the Buckeyes heading to Evanston to face Northwestern in a rare Friday night game.
It isn’t uncommon for Power Five teams to play on Fridays. The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 have plenty of games on weeknights, but teams the level of Ohio State are usually not involved.
The Buckeyes opened on a Thursday night at Indiana back in 2017. Obviously that doesn’t impact Friday Night Lights in Ohio, though. This will be the first Friday night regular season game for the Buckeyes since 1959, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
The game may not be in Columbus, but the worry is that a number of fans will stay home to watch, driving down attendance and fan support at Ohio high school games. Naturally, those programs are not happy.
Perrysburg High School athletic director Chuck Jaco spoke out about the issue with the The Blade in Toledo, as the game will run up against his program’s senior night.
“When they announced it, I thought, ‘What? Ohio State can’t be playing on a Friday,’” Jaco recalled. “And then I looked at the schedule, and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s our last home game of the year.’
“Darn them. High school football is sacred in Ohio. It always has been. I’m a die-hard Buckeye fan, and even if I wasn’t an AD, I wouldn’t get excited to watch the Buckeyes on a Friday night. Shame on the Big Ten for intruding on the Midwest. It’s going to impact us. It just doesn’t make sense. You don’t mess with Friday nights in Ohio.”
He’s not alone. The Twitter account for the Ursuline Football program responded to the piece, calling for a boycott of the game.
Please make a statement to Ohio State by NOT watching their Friday night game this week. Friday nights are for HS football. Let’s keep it that way. Support your local team. We play Boardman, and would love to have you in our stands, but that’s not the point. Support HS football. pic.twitter.com/8C2ZXc918i
— Ursuline Football (@UrsulineIrishFB) October 17, 2019
Obviously, this is out of Ohio State’s hands. Not every Big Ten team has the same issue with their home state programs, and the Buckeyes clearly didn’t try and pull a power move to prevent the league from scheduling the Buckeyes on Friday.
Ryan Day has responded to the criticisms, which obviously put him in a tough position with the high school coaches with whom he has to build a relationship.
“But that’s out of our hands, out of our control, and not much we can do about it,” Day added. “I try not to worry about that. When the schedule comes out, we’re going to go play wherever they tell us to play. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that, because it’s not really under my control or something that I can worry about.”
Given the outcry, Ohio State might be wise to try and prevent this from happening again any time soon, but of course, then the program runs the risk of being branded as one that is trying to be bigger than the Big Ten conference as a whole. There’s certainly no easy winning with this issue.
That’s not the only issue that this game faces. Because of the bumped back ALCS, Ohio State at Northwestern has been moved from FS1 to Big Ten Network.