The Huskies will travel to Bowling Green on Oct. 21 in the final Saturday game of the regular season. The following Thursday, they will host Eastern Michigan.Precisely. Go, read the rest.
Since NIU started playing midweek games in 2004, the Huskies traditionally have been given a nice buffer between the last Saturday game and the first weeknight contest. In 2009, they played Akron (27-10 win) on a Saturday and Eastern Michigan (50-6 win) on the following Thursday, but both games were in the friendly confines of Huskie Stadium.
This coming season, the Huskies will travel to Bowling Green on that last Saturday before packing up and traveling home on either a bus or a plane, and then turn around with minimum rest for an important contest against suddenly competent Eastern Michigan – the first MAC West game of the year for NIU.
Before thinking NIU has it bad, Ball State has to run the brutal two-games-in-five-days gauntlet twice this season – Oct. 21 against Central Michigan and Oct. 26 against Toledo, along with Nov. 16 against Buffalo and Nov. 21 against Miami (Ohio). The only saving grace for those poor Cardinals players is that all four games are at home.
Other conferences have done that Saturday-to-Thursday turnaround – the Mountain West, for example – and you see it in the NFL with its truly hard-to-watch Thursday Night Football games, but at least those guys are getting a payday for their backbreaking work.
All of it, at the end of the day, is about money.
The networks want live football to put on the air during weeknights. The conferences are more than happy to get in bed with the networks because it brings them giant bags with dollar signs printed on them and brand it with words such as "exposure" and hashtags such as "#MACtion."
Sure, there is something to be said about the exposure that being on ESPN's networks brings. However, we've seen what it's done to stadium attendance. All that is worrisome, but it's much less sinister than putting in harm's way the athletes that earn those TV contracts.
There is more and more information coming out about the dangers of concussions, so that we can no longer simply stick our head in the sand. Playing two games in five days is dangerous.
Let's restore football to a State of Good Repair.
Friday night is for high schools.
Saturday is for colleges and universities.
Sunday is for the professionals, preferably in a stadium in the shadow of a steel works or a paper mill.
College bowls finished on New Year's Day unless that's a Sunday.