Northwestern's Friday night games moved to Saturdays next season

The Big Ten plans to scale back its plans for Friday night football games moving forward after hearing from a long list of parties affected by the change.

The league announced last fall that its television partners would start to broadcast games on Friday nights, including six contests after the opening Labor Day weekend of the 2017 season. The decision drew criticism from coaches, fans and high school athletic associations.

In an updated schedule released last week, two of those six games -- Northwestern at Maryland on Oct. 13 and Michigan State at Northwestern on Oct. 27 -- were moved back to Saturday kickoff dates. A conference official told ESPN on Monday that moving forward, the league is likely to scale back even further to two or three Friday night games after the opening week per year.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was one of the most outspoken critics of the move last November. He said playing on Fridays could negatively impact his team's academics, the fans' experience and high school football teams in the area, who typically play on Friday nights. The Big Ten official said that Fitzgerald was far from the only person who made an impact on their decision to move two of the Wildcats' games from Friday to Saturday.

"I believe Fridays are for high school football first and foremost," Fitzgerald said in the fall. "I think playing on a short week is a mistake. I'd prefer to keep Big Ten football on Saturdays. I get it, doesn't mean I like it."

Northwestern did not immediately return a request for comment this week, but Fitzgerald told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend that the change was "great news."

Several other Big Ten programs said last fall that they did not want to participate in any Friday night games. Other said they were willing to play on weeknights prior to Labor Day, but not later in the season.

The Big Ten has plans to bring its television partners together with many of its members and the high school athletic association directors from the 11 states within its footprint in the near future to discuss ways to mitigate the negative effects that playing on Fridays might have.

The updated schedule includes eight weekday games during the 2017 season. Ohio State, Indiana, Rutgers and Wisconsin are all scheduled to play on Thursday or Friday night during the first week of the season. Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa will play a mix of non-conference and league games during the rest of the season.
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