More night games means more issues for Michigan
Ann Arbor — Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, meeting with a group of media on Wednesday, reiterated that the Wolverines could host either or both Michigan State and Minnesota in night games this fall at Michigan Stadium and that the decision falls to television
The Wolverines’ home games against Michigan State on Oct. 7 and Minnesota on Nov. 4 are in the schedule window of potential prime-time kickoffs. Manuel has previously said that the Big Ten will allow games through Week 10 to be possible night games.
Manuel met with media to discuss a wide-range of topics and said that because of the new Big Ten television deal, schools have to know a minimum of 12 days before kickoff if a game is a night game. Manuel has not yet been informed whether either or both of the UM games in question are night games.
“They could let us know three weeks before, but they have to let us know 12 days before the game would occur whether or not it would be a prime-time game,” he said. “If they don’t make it a prime-time game, we might have to wait up to the six-day window to know if it’s a noon or 3:30.”
Manuel said Michigan has agreed to host up to three night games in two years, so there will be two either this season or next.
Although Michigan could find out only 12 days before the game, Manuel said the athletic department staff has a blueprint for how to handle increased security and all that goes into a night game.
“I think it’s different (than a day game) from the standpoint of increased staffing levels we need to have for the safety and fan experience of getting around,” Manuel said. “We add additional lighting to our parking lots. I think the people at Pioneer High school and Ann Arbor Golf and Outing, all of those places have additional expenses to make sure people are safe in this environment. Obviously, the police forces, but the university, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, the state of Michigan are in increased vigilance.
“The longer people have to tailgate, you see more issues around alcohol and issues related to that, so that also is a concern. There are multiple areas of concern we have after the game in people getting home late at night. The concern is around our fans and travel that late hour.”
Manuel said that the biggest issue is that the Wolverines draw fans who travel some distance.
“I think the number outside of a four-hour radius in terms of driving is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent of our season-ticket base,” he said. “So I have great concern around that in terms of night games, in terms of the increase in the amount of time you have 110 to 115 to 200,000 people in Ann Arbor in the evening puts a lot of stress on not only the game-day (staff) but also on the city, the police force and the like.”
Manuel likes alternate uniform
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said the team will wear an alternate uniform this season, and Manuel has had a look at it.
“I like ‘em,” Manuel said.
Manuel said it’s up to Harbaugh and all of Michigan’s coaches to decide what uniforms are worn. It is unclear when the Wolverines will wear the alternate uniform this season, which opens Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
“With all the different uniforms that teams wear nowadays, I don’t know if there’s a traditional standard across the board anymore,” Manuel said. “If Jim decides to wear the alternate uniform, the team will look great and they will go out and play well like they will play in our more traditional uniforms.
“Uniforms have nothing to do with the way that we play. I’ve worn uniforms of different sorts, and I’ve had different results, more winning than losing, thankfully, but uniforms don’t make you win or lose. They go out in the alternate uniforms and win, they’ll be the favorite uniforms, right? You don’t win, people don’t like them. I want Jim, as well as all my coaches, to have the ability to make the selection of the uniforms they believe they need to make and the look as we roll out.”
More neutral-site games?
For the season opener against Florida in Arlington, each team is guaranteed $6 million, which is in the ballpark of Michigan’s gate for a home game.
It’s a solid alternative for teams that want to play big-name teams and not lose money by playing at a team’s site. But that doesn’t mean Michigan is looking for more of these games.
“There is a benefit economically when you play one neutral-site game versus a home and a home,” Manuel said. “Both teams received a $6 million guarantee to move the game. If we played here we would obviously make the revenue off of a home game, but if we played away, we would lose that revenue in that year, so it offsets it that way.
“I am not against, nor am I for. I’m sort of neutral to neutral-site games. It just depends on the place, the time, the opponent. I’m excited. I know the team and the coaching staff, we’re going to face a great team in Florida. Looking forward to playing in Dallas. We’ve had great success in our fans wanting to go down to Dallas to see the game so I’m looking forward to it. But I’m not going out and trying to lock up a bunch of neutral-site games. I’m having conversations and would have conversations with coach Harbaugh based on something that would come in that direction, but it’s not something I’m out seeking and wanting to play.”