Opinion: Night football at Michigan Stadium will be electric, loud and memorable
The fans will be loud. Oh, yes, the fans will be loud.
If there is one guarantee a night football game in Ann Arbor, it is that.
Night games bring the noise - even at usually quiet-for-110,000 people Michigan Stadium - all around the country. Thursday, newly installed athletic director Dave Brandon announced that Michigan will play host to Notre Dame in an 8 p.m. game on Sept. 10, 2011.
At Michigan, a night game will represent something more than merely a day of drinking and tailgating and watching the rest of the Big Ten play football before a nighttime rivalry crescendo versus Notre Dame.
This is the first step toward the Wrigley Field-ization of Michigan Stadium. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Much was made when Wrigley Field, long the epitome of historic stadiums in American sporting culture, added lights and hosted its first night game in 1988. It was viewed as a shift in culture. If Wrigley could add night games, any stadium could and would.
Now, Michigan will.
Times change. Stadiums grow. And Michigan Stadium, nearly done with the biggest facelift in its history, is one of the most tradition-filled stadiums you’ll find.
For one night in 2011, the old girl will look different: She’ll be the Big House After Dark.
This should excite, well, almost everyone. There is something magical about night games in college football. The atmosphere is electric. Fans and players enjoy it.
About the only people who don’t are some coaches - no one likes sitting around all day waiting to play a game, and that’s understandable.
But the positives far outweigh the negatives, media deadlines notwithstanding.
“I think everyone likes to play under the lights,” Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin told AnnArbor.com before Michigan’s night game at Iowa in 2009. “High school, college, pros, whatever.”
Now, he’ll get his chance under the lights in a place that forever seemed like it’d play home games during the day.
That the first night game at Michigan Stadium will come against Notre Dame, one of its bigger rivals, also has some symmetry.
Around South Bend, the Irish rarely play night games, having played Michigan three times at night, the last in 1990. As part of its NBC deal, there is a stipulation that no night games be scheduled at Notre Dame, and it is part of the reason for the Irish’s yearly “off-site” game on the network at night.
Provided this goes well for Michigan - and considering how it works across the country, there’s little reason to believe it won’t be a success - Brandon said he’d like to make this a yearly occurrence. This would bring it on par with the rest of the Big Ten. Every other Big Ten school plays night games.
Often, they play them during the Big Ten season, and that likely won’t be too far off in the future, either, for Michigan.
No matter what, day or night, fans will come. Michigan has proved that. It’ll just be a bit louder this time.