For much of the last century, the three levels of fall football — pro, college and high school — had an unwritten rule preventing them from competing for fans’ attentions. Fridays were reserved for High School games, Saturdays for college and Sunday for the NFL.
But over the last 20 years or so, as media opportunities have expanded for both the NFL and college games, those rules have been bent and even broken. Now it’s not uncommon to see a handful of college games being played Friday nights — directly competing with local high schools — as NCAA conferences and schools chase TV dollars.
There have been some grumblings over the years, with high school coaches and some college coaches lamenting the changes. But overall the trend has continued.
The argument against playing college games on Friday nights received aboost when Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh — perhaps the most visible and outspoken college coach in the game today — railed against the practice last June.
“I am not for it at all,” Harbaugh told Rich Eisen on the NFL Network host’s radio show. “Friday night is for high school football.”
Harbaugh was responding to the Big Ten’s push to schedule and televise six games on Friday nights during the 2017 season. The decision was met with scorn from high school football coaches, especially in the Big Ten’s midwest backyard.
Those coaches found an eager ally in Harbaugh and also Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips, who lobbied the Big Ten to move his two Friday games to Saturday.
Still, over 50 college games nationwide will be played Friday nights in 2017.
Perhaps in response to the debate, the National Federation of High Schools, the governing body of all state associations (including the CIAC), adopted a resolution Wednesday declaring its belief that Friday nights be sacred ground for high school football.
The resolution is as follows:
“Be it RESOLVED that every Friday night during the fall in America is ‘High School Football Night.’
“Be it FURTHER RESOLVED that college and professional football teams should refrain from scheduling contests on Friday nights. Such restraint would be an investment in their own future success. It would also demonstrate that high school football has value well beyond the field of play. Schools, communities and scholastic teams for girls and boys all benefit when football is strong.
“THEREFORE, the National Federation of State High School Associations urges all parties to observe the central premise of this resolution.”
“The value of tradition cannot be understated,” NFHS executive director Bob Gardner said in a statement announcing the resolution. “Friday nights offer communities a traditional time and place to congregate and support their students. If a major college football game was scheduled in the area on a Friday night, it could affect attendance at the high school game or cause the game to be moved to another day. In addition, many of the Friday night college games are televised, which could result in lower attendance at high school contests nationwide.
“We believe retaining Friday nights for high school contests is a plus for colleges as well as they reap the benefits of healthy programs at the high school level.”
Sure, the resolution is essentially toothless. Only the NCAA and its member schools and conferences can change their scheduling philosophies. But if the practice is going to be eliminated or, more likely, tempered, voicing stringent opposition is high school football’s best recourse. At least they have the NFHS behind them.
Read the full release, below: