Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh prefers to play college football games only on Saturdays and preferably at noon or 1 p.m.
But he certainly understands why there are varied kickoff times.
Now, for the first time in series history, Michigan and Michigan State will play in prime time when they meet Oct. 7 at Michigan Stadium. The game will be carried by ABC at 7:30 p.m, it was announced Monday.
This will be the fourth night game at Michigan — the Wolverines played Notre Dame under the lights in 2011 and 2013 and Penn State in 2014.
It will be the first Harbaugh, now in his third season coaching the Wolverines, has coached at Michigan Stadium.
Harbaugh was asked Monday at his weekly news conference what he thinks of night games and does he have a preference for kickoff time.
“I prefer they’re kicked off 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon,” Harbaugh said. “It most appeals to my football sensibility, just a personal thought there.
“Definitely not Fridays, not Thursdays, not Wednesdays, Tuesdays or Mondays or Sundays in college football. But Saturday, prefer the 1 o’clock kickoff but understand that there’s 3:30 kickoffs there’s 4 o’clock kickoffs, there’s 7:30 kickoffs, etcetera. We’ll get ourselves prepared.”
With the new Big Ten television deals that took effect this season, the conference and its TV partners determine the schedule. Night game can be set through the 10th week of the season.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has said that Michigan could host up to two night games this season and three total in the next two years. The Minnesota game on Nov. 4 also could potentially be a night game.
Schools are informed a minimum 12 days before the game if it’s a night game but can wait until six days before to know if it’s a noon or 3:30 kickoff.
Because Michigan has hosted night games in the past, albeit three years ago was the most recent, Manuel said the staff has a blueprint for how to handle increased security and all that goes into hosting 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 in August. “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 the Wolverines draw fans who travel from some distance.
“I think the number outside of a four-hour radius in terms of driving in 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.”