Just when you think you’ve heard it all – just when you think college athletics cannot exhibit more greed – the Big Ten announces that it will compete with high schools for the Friday night football market in the near future.
Just outside the headlines of last week’s opening round of the OHSAA high school football playoffs, there was another, troubling, headline from the Big Ten Conference, and this quote from commissioner Jim Delany to the Chicago Tribute.
“We thought it was worthwhile to dip our toe in the water” … when it comes to playing select football games on Friday nights. And, this is not something down the road, but rather, in Delany’s words, it will come in the near future.
This raises some eyebrows, of course, because it stands to be one of the worst public relations gaffs in the history of the relationship between college and high school football.
Let me count the reasons.
1) As if people already don’t have the impression that NCAA sports isn’t greedy and self-serving, this is the ultimate step taken in confirming it.
2) Dipping your toe blatantly says, “We want to compete with high schools for the Friday night football dollar” – at a time when most high schools’ budgets are in trouble anyway.
3) And owing to reason #2, for many high schools that struggle to even afford football (the most expensive of the prep sports), this is the perfect reason (and time) to give it up altogether. Translation: College football is killing the goose that lays the golden egg of future recruiting!
Some Big Ten schools have been vocal in their opposition. Michigan and Penn State have declared that they will refuse to host Friday night games. What’s unclear is, will they refuse to play if someone else hosts a game?
Also unclear. How many games, and how often?
But Ohio State director of athletics, Gene Smith, told the Columbus Dispatch last week: “The reality is what we need to do for our television partners and what we need to do for our revenue stream. We need to consider different options.”
Their revenue stream?
Is there any question, when you attend an Ohio State event of any kind that they’re hurting for money? And when was the last time you got a letter saying to expect a decrease this year in tickets, parking, or requested support?
Smith acknowledged a downside to high school football, but he didn’t acknowledge the potential public relations disaster to come. Much of “Buckeye Nation” has a long-standing tradition of attending the Upper Arlington game (as an example) on Friday night and then the Buckeyes on Saturday. Can you someday imagine Urban Meyer looking the UA football coach in the eye on a recruiting visit after making Arlington fans choose between the local high school or an OSU game? Can you imagine his explanation for drawing from the high school crowd of 5,000 to help ensure the Ohio Stadium crowd of 105,000?
Want proof? I found it interesting that for Saturday night’s playoff game between Minster and Lehman, an event that should pack the stands with partisans from both communities – for the marquee event of the season – that the bleachers were only half full. And why? Well, in part, because the Buckeyes were playing Nebraska on prime time television.
And worse, if people generally believe politics to be bad business, what are they gonna’ think of taking money from a high school budget to support college football’s solvency? What are they gonna say about, “we need to do what we need to do for our television partners, and our revenue stream?” The Big Ten’s current television package is worth a reported $2.64 billion over the next six years.
Trust it. People will no longer think of the Big Ten Network. But they will boil when they think about the “Big Ten’s net worth”.
What To Think Of Week 1…
So, were there any real surprises in Week 1 of the football playoffs?
Well, hardly, notwithstanding our miss on the Troy Christain-Upper Scioto Valley game. TC simply fell behind too far early and ran out of time.
But Joe Neves and I were dead on with the other eight picks involving teams like Covington, Troy, Milton, Minster, Ft. Recovery, St. Henry, Marion Local and Coldwater.
The mail bag was pretty full Sunday from HS football fans from Youngstown to Wheelersburg asking about area teams in their respective divisions. Who’s playing well? And who’s the most likely to get out of their region?
Well, to repeat what I wrote a couple of weeks ago in the Friday ‘picks’ page, Marion Local has certainly hit their stride and are going to be a tough out for anyone from here on out, including this week’s opponent, St. Henry.
But I’ve also written that St. Henry, a former state champion multiple times but not in the past decade, is the most improved team I’ve personally seen in the area since Week 1. Junior quarterback Daylon Lange (pronounced Lang-ee) took over that position after a stumbling start in the first two weeks and has won the praise of every opposing coach since.
“He may be the best throwing quarterback we’ve faced this year,” says Marion’s Tim Goodwin.
And best, Lange and the Redskins have a very fine complement of running backs (Ryan Luttmer, Jaren Fishbaugh, and Blake Hoyng) to go with him.
And then there’s Minster, who looked dead in the water during a three-game losing streak to Marion, Coldwater and St. Henry, but has since rebounded to run the table and confidently beat Lehman in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday night.
Of course, Marion plays St. Henry this week, so one of those teams will be going home.
But if there’s another team that I’ve personally seen that I would not want to play at this time…it’s Minster, who draws Upper Scioto Valley on Saturday. Quarterback Jared Huelsman and tailback Bryce Schmiesing are first team all-league, and the defense plays like its hair is on fire.
And then there’s Troy, a team you’d pull for given they’ve turned 2-8 into 10-1 in twelve months and essentially with the same kids. They have Miamisburg this Friday, a team they lost to back in September by four points (21-17). The Trojans are healthy and confident. And if I were Miamisburg, I wouldn’t take that outcome back in September for granted.
Volleyball titles are at stake this weekend…
At least two area teams will compete for volleyball championship in their respective divisions.
Miami East will play Gilmour Academy at the Nutter Center in the Division III semi-finals on Friday at 6 pm.
And defending champion Jackson Center, out of the Shelby County League, will meet Dalton High School in Division IV on Thursday at 4 pm.
Our sincerest best wishes to both!