Friday games are good exposure for lesser teams

One of my favorite stories about working in the office at the Mirror is from Oct. 22, 2005, when Penn State visited Illinois.

Michael Robinson and the Nittany Lions were destroying the Illini, up 56-3 at the half. My colleague, Scott Franco, somehow is a lifelong Illinois fan, and at one point in the first half, our sports editor, Buck Frank, cracked a smile and deadpanned this to our friend:

“Scotty, this is the worst team I’ve ever seen.”

To this day, I still laugh out loud remembering that line.

If you know Scotty at all, he’s about as fun of a guy as there is to be around. And even though Buck zinged him good, he could still laugh about it because, yes, Illinois really was that bad. The Illini finished 2-9, went 0-8 in the Big Ten and lost their last nine games.

I bring all this up now because Penn State visits Illinois this week, and the Illini are awful once again. They went 2-10 last year, and even though they’re 2-1 so far, the victories were over cupcakes and they’re likely to win only one ore two more games the rest of the season.

But come Friday night, Illinois gets to host a game on national TV. Its program will get a lot of exposure — much, much more so than a program of its current caliber deserves.

The game kicks off at 9 p.m., and once the 7 p.m. game between UCF and Florida Atlantic is over, anyone in the country who wants to watch some college football will have but one choice — to watch Illinois.

Yes, and to watch Penn State, but that’s nothing new for the Lions. They’re a prime TV draw all the time.

Friday night college games are not ideal, I’ll admit. The day should, as James Franklin says, be reserved for high school football.

However, I have found myself watching just about whatever college game has been televised on Friday nights for years. It is, for lack of a better way to put it, just something to do.

Penn State doesn’t need the extra exposure of a Friday night game. But other teams in the Big Ten do. A number of them, in fact. Programs that aren’t on the level of the college superpowers.

Maybe you, as a PSU fan, don’t care about those teams, which is fine. But everybody deserves a chance for some time in the spotlight, even terrible teams like Illinois.

About the only way for those teams to get much exposure is to play when nobody else is playing. For that reason, the Big Ten’s decision to play some occasional Friday night games was a good one.

Cory Giger can be reached at cgiger@altoonamirror.com.