SOUTH SIOUX CITY | Rarely do the decisions of big-time college sports administrators have much of an effect on high school football games.
But football fans across Nebraska will be facing a conundrum Friday night, thanks to a Big 10 Conference decision to have six of its football games played, and televised, on Friday nights this year.
Whether you're from Nebraska, Iowa or any other state that's home to a Big 10 university, you know that creates conflicts with high school football, which traditionally is played on Friday night. After the Big 10's November announcement of an expanded television deal that included Friday night football games, high school administrators across Nebraska were concerned when they saw that they'd be sharing this Friday with Nebraska Cornhusker football.
Nebraska plays at Illinois at 7 p.m., the same time most high school games kick off. Fans' allegiances will be tested. Do they go to their local high school game or stay home and watch the Huskers on TV?
"I think everybody in Nebraska knows some might get to see the game and some don't. I sure would like to see the Husker game, but I'm glad to see our South Sioux City kids compete," said Ed Akins, activities director at South Sioux City High School, which hosts Beatrice Friday at 7 p.m.
The Big 10's decision to expand its football schedule into Friday night was curious, to say the least.
"I think we were kind of baffled being that Friday has always been high school football night," said Adam James, Winnebago High School activities director and middle school principal.
But, as Mike Sjuts, principal and activities director at Bancroft-Rosalie High School, said, there wasn't really anything high school administrators could do about it.
"Initially, I think we were disappointed," he said. "Friday night in Nebraska as long as I can remember has always been high school football night, and Saturday has always been Big Red football."
High school administrators had three options: play their games as scheduled, move the game to an earlier kickoff time or move it to another day.
South Sioux City considered all three before deciding to leave Friday's game at 7 p.m. Akins said moving the game to another day would have conflicted with other school activities, and an earlier start would have meant some people probably would miss the Cardinals' game because they couldn't leave work early.
"Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas should be able to come and see their kids play," Akins said.
Sjuts said Bancroft-Rosalie, which competes under the name BRLD due to a sports cooperative agreement with Lyons-Decatur, looked at moving its game to Thursday or Saturday, but those days were already stacked with volleyball and softball games, a cross country meet and a homecoming dance. They'll play Tekamah-Herman on Friday night as originally scheduled, knowing it's likely some fans will stay home to watch Nebraska instead.
"I feel bad because some people won't come to our game," Sjuts said.
Winnebago moved its game with Pender to 3 p.m. Friday. James said he worried that playing at the same time as Nebraska might lead to a shortage of volunteers who work in the concession stand and take admission. Thursday and Saturday weren't options, either. The earlier start should enable Winnebago and Pender fans to get home in time to watch the Nebraska game.
"I think you would have had the close family members and other family members still attend, but you'd have other fans who would have chosen to watch the (Nebraska) game at home instead," James said.
Akins said he didn't think the Nebraska game would have much of an effect on attendance at South Sioux City's game. Most people have smartphones and will be able to remain updated on Nebraska's game from the bleachers. If the game were in Lincoln, it would be a bigger deal, he said, because fans who have Husker football tickets would have had to decide which game to attend.
Future schedules might not have those types of conflicts. In August, the Big 10 announced a scaled-back plan that calls for only two Friday night games in coming seasons rather than the current six. Nebraska officials have said they'd be unlikely to agree to Friday night football again.
James would prefer the conference went even further.
"I hope they get away from it," he said. "I think Friday night always has been high school football night."
Probably always will be, too.