For as long as I can remember pro football has been played (primarily) on Sundays, college football on Saturdays, and high school football on Friday nights. For football junkies, this was a perfect model as it allowed time to watch all three levels of play over the course of a weekend. Today, however, increasingly more colleges and pro teams are entertaining the idea of scheduling some of their games on Friday nights — in direct competition with high school football. While it is understandable that college and pro football wants to include more Friday night games in the future, it’s important to weigh those desires against the potential direct, negative impact on high school football.
Friday night football, plus much more
High school football is so much more than just a 60 minute game between 2 teams, but instead represents the collective identity of entire communities. Often people talk about the local football team in terms of “we” when describing a game against an upcoming opponent, almost as though the football team is a direct extension of their family. We also know that when the home team wins, the entire community feels it, and in many instances it is this very athletic success that helps towns feel a little better in that moment.
To date, the exclusivity high school football has had with Friday night games has provided stadiums to be filled, community support for the school to develop, and even increased local commerce for businesses. High school football on Friday night has always been the only show in town, and without any real competition, has allowed entire communities to come together over a common source. While this may not be a big deal in your hometown, there are countless places around the country where high school football is a very big deal.
The future impact of college & pro football
Assuming more college and pro football games are played on Friday nights, we can reasonably expect there to be some major school and community consequences experienced in the future. College and pro teams with big followings will almost certainly steer would-be high school football fans to watching their games rather than going to local high school games. To the degree and extent this will occur remains unknown, but to think high school football will not be impacted seems to be rather short-sighted. Fewer crowds at high school games will lead to:
- Less enthusiasm for the team, school, and community
- Unforeseen scheduling conflicts
- Potential for community businesses to be negatively impacted by having less support
- Fiscal consequences for schools that feel the loss of fewer crowds at games, and less revenue collected as a result (and all the dominoes that fall relating to future academic and extra-curricular activities that may be eliminated with less money to use)
Keep Friday nights for HS football
There is something unique, something “organic” when it comes to the relationship communities have with their high school football teams. Unlike college and pro sports, individual athletes are not the focus, but instead there is a collective ownership of the team and the community it represents. This dynamic is evidenced from each school’s unique band and fight songs, on-field traditions, team mascots and colors, and so much more. Community members who wouldn’t otherwise know each other sit side-by-side in the stadium, and for a few hours each week strengthen their relationships while collectively pulling for “their” team on the field. To splinter these relationships and experiences simply because college and pro football would like a bigger future footprint doesn’t seem right, and it is for these reasons that the vote here is for college and pro football to step back and allow high school football to continue to own Friday night lights.