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High Schools to Other Organizations: Hands Off Friday Nights

23 Aug, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Calling all college sports and pro teams. High school football has a message for you and it’s this: Hands off Friday nights. And by the way, travel teams should be ready for some blowback too. Here’s what event owners need to know.

In an effort to re-emphasize that Friday nights in the fall should be reserved for high school football, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has adopted a resolution that urges schools and teams at the college and professional levels to honor that longstanding tradition and schedule games on other days. And it’s something organizers of weekend tournaments – particularly those in areas where the local varsity football team is the big entertainment – should know about.

The tradition of “Friday Night Lights” has been in existence for decades in communities nationwide, in public, private and parochial high schools. Nevertheless, officials for high school sports are seeing a growing encroachment from other events.

The NFHS notes, “Although some major college football games have been played on Friday nights for about 20 years, the numbers continue to increase. This year, more than 50 major college football games will be played on Friday nights, including eight on September 1 – the Friday night before Labor Day weekend. Most recently, the Big Ten Conference joined a growing number of conferences that has scheduled a handful of games on Friday nights.”

For many high school sports, whose schools not only enjoy but depend upon the buy-in from the local community, having attention siphoned away by larger organizations is problematic.

Large events, such as those at the college level (and the pro level), as well as tournaments in the local area that cross over and compete with times for scheduled events, put high schools in an awkward place. Increased traffic congestion, demand upon local restaurants and businesses on the nights of games and more, reduce high school sports to what has become pejoratively known as the ‘stepchild’ status.

 “The value of tradition cannot be overstated,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “Friday nights offer communities a traditional time and place to congregate and support their students. If a major college football game was scheduled in the area on a Friday night, it could affect attendance at the high school game or cause the game to be moved to another day. In addition, many of the Friday night college games are televised, which could result in lower attendance at high school contests nationwide. We believe retaining Friday nights for high school contests is a plus for colleges as well as they reap the benefits of healthy programs at the high school level.”

The NFHS membership, made up of state high school associations in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, adopted the resolution, the full text of which can be found here.

So what is the take-away for event planners? It’s a difficult balance to strike. Because many youth travel teams hold events over the weekend, Friday nights often come into play. Planners of events that will take place on Fridays during the fall football season may want to discuss with the local sports commission whether their event will be held in the same area and at the same time as high school games.

If this is the case, event owners should find out whether this same place/same time booking stands to create problems for families going to either the football game or the travel sports event. For example, does the sports commission anticipate traffic or parking issues? How about congestion at local gathering spots afterwards?

If there will be problematic crossover, start now to help design workarounds. It is, after all, a way of being an asset to the community – not just in terms of economic impact, but as a partner to previously existing sports events.

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