ANN ARBOR – Two days before Halloween, the Michigan athletic department must face one of its biggest fears: a home football game at night.
While many schools embrace prime-time games, Michigan reluctantly embraces them.
“We have been consistent in our selection of day games,” a Michigan athletic department spokesman said this week.
Schools may submit entries, but start times are decided by the Big Ten in conjunction with their television partners. Those decisions gave Michigan a 7:30 pm ET start against Michigan State this past Saturday. ABC will broadcast the game.
Michigan also had a home night game against Hawaii earlier this season. Michigan’s remaining six games — four home, two away — all start at noon ET. The other start time for Big Ten games is at 3:30.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh prefers to start early. He made that clear before Michigan’s final primetime game against Michigan State in 2017.
“It appeals more to my football sense,” he said at the time.
That sentiment is shared by Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. In 2017, he explained all the problems with a night game, from excessive alcohol consumption among fans to late night tours to extra lights. For a night game, the Michigan Stadium staff might work 17 hours straight, he said.
Related: Here’s how safety officials are preparing for Michigan, MSU football’s night game
Manuel was not available for comment before Saturday’s game, but his office issued a statement that said “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 carried four straight Michigan games this season — still control start times for all but a- only homecoming and end of season tournaments.
And so Saturday’s game against the Spartans will be Michigan’s 10th home night game since the start of the 2017 season.
See also: History of night games at Michigan Stadium
Many players appreciate competing under the lights of the Big House.
“I love night games,” senior offensive lineman Karsen Barnhart said. “They’re a big time. Especially at the Big House, because the atmosphere is amazing. “
Junior safety RJ Moten said: “I feel like when we play at night everything is faster, the crowd is louder. There’s just a different feel on the field at night.”
A few other players shared those sentiments but noted that they would have preferred a midday start. “Get up, get right up,” said fifth-year offensive lineman Ryan Hayes. “You don’t have to sit there all day and think about the game. “
There is no consensus among Michigan fans regarding starting times.
“The feedback we get directly about starting times comes from all sides of the issue, and our large fan base has broad and passionate preferences,” said an athletic department spokesperson. To put it plainly, we are not getting any more comments from fans about night vs. day games.”
Fans can’t agree on night games. Players enjoy the enhanced atmosphere. And the university wants every game finish before the sun went down.
Saturday, it will be dark with kickoff. Michigan will face its in-state rival. It’s Halloween weekend.
For the Michigan athletic department, it’s a nightmare.