Ann Arbor – Two days before Halloween, the Michigan sports department will have to deal with one of its biggest fears: a home game of soccer at night.
While many schools are adopting prime-time games, Michigan is reluctant to deal with them.
“We have been consistent in our preference for everyday games,” a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Athletics said this week.
Schools can provide input, but kickoff times are determined by the Big Ten in conjunction with their TV partners. These decision makers assigned Michigan State at 7:30 p.m. EDT against Michigan State on Saturday. ABC will broadcast the match.
Michigan also had a night game at home against Hawaii earlier this season. Michigan’s other six games — four at home, two away — began around noon EST. Another possible start time for Big Ten games is 3:30.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh prefers an early start. He made that clear before Michigan’s last prime-time game against Michigan State in 2017.
“It’s more appealing to my football sensibility,” he said at the time.
And that sensation is shared by Michigan’s athletic director, Ward Manuel. In 2017, he brought up all the issues with the night game, from excessive alcohol consumption among fans to late-night commuting to extra lighting. For the night game, he said, Michigan Stadium staff may work 17 hours straight.
Related: This is how safety officials prepare for the night soccer game at Michigan State University
Manuel was not available for comment prior to Saturday’s game, but his office provided a statement that noted that “nothing has changed about the Big Ten schedule or our position on night games.”
The Big Ten and its affiliate networks — ABC, Big Ten Network, ESPN and FOX, which held four consecutive games in Michigan this season — still control the start times for all games except for the homecoming and late season competitions.
So Saturday’s game against the Spartans will be Michigan’s 10th home game since the start of the 2017 season.
See also: The date of the night games at Michigan Stadium
Many players appreciate competing under the lights of the big house.
“I love night games,” said one of the senior offensive linemen, Carsen Barnhart. “It’s a big time. Especially in the big house, because the atmosphere there is great.”
Junior safety team RJ Moten said: “I feel that when we play at night everything is faster, the crowd is louder. There is a different feeling on the field at night.”
A few other players shared these sentiments but indicated their preference for starting the afternoon. “Wake up, and you’re off at once,” said Ryan Hayes, a fifth-year attack airliner. “You don’t have to sit there all day and think about the game.”
There is no consensus among Michigan fans regarding kickoff times.
“The feedback we receive comes live at start times from all sides of the issue, with a large fan base we have broad and emotional preferences,” said a spokesperson for the sports department. “Obviously we’re not getting more significant fan input about night games versus daytime games.”
Fans can’t agree on the night games. Players enjoy the enhanced atmosphere. The university wishes every match is over before sunset.
On Saturday, it will be dark as the game kicks off. Michigan will face its in-state rival. It’s the Halloween holiday.
For the Michigan Department of Athletics, it’s a nightmare.
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