Friday night was meant for high school football.
At least, that’s the way it used to be until the National Football League got into the business of playing preseason games on five days of the week.
It wasn’t enough for the NFL to stage preseason games on Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. The league, along with the wealthy networks that telecast NFL games, felt the need to claim Fridays as well.
So while the majority of area prep football teams open their season Friday, they will play in the huge shadow of a Green Bay Packers preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
It’s the fourth time since 2009 the Packers have gone head-to-head with area high schools on a Friday night.
That begs the question: Isn’t it high time the NFL stopped playing Friday games out of deference to prep teams?
“It would be nice to have our schools have the spotlight for one night out of the week for their football,” WIAA communications director Todd Clark said. “But again, knowing the dollars and the politics, I’m not quite sure that’s possible.”
Area coaches and athletic directors have resigned themselves to the fact the Packers rule in these parts.
The Green Bay Preble-Ashwaubenon and Green Bay West-Green Bay East season openers were scheduled for Friday but got moved to Thursday to avoid a conflict with the Packers game.
Ashwaubenon is only a mile from Lambeau, so traffic and safety concerns were the biggest factors that prompted Ashwaubenon athletic director Dave Steavpack to move the game.
“Some of our athletes, some of our spectators, they work at Lambeau, they park cars in their front yards for Packer games,” Steavpack said. “So for our situation it just seemed best to move it to another date.”
Two years ago, the Packers hosted Arizona in a Friday night preseason game, which prompted Green Bay Notre Dame to move its opener against Manitowoc to 4 p.m. that day.
The Packers-Seahawks game will be televised nationally by CBS, so the Packers had no say in when it would be played.
“No, the league just says, ‘This is when you’re playing,’ ” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said.
When asked if it would be realistic for the NFL to impose a no-Friday policy for preseason games in late August, Murphy said: “I think it’s a good goal but to have a set policy would be really hard because of TV and some of the other issues, in terms of teams and putting together their schedules.”
Murphy said if he had a choice, all of the Packers preseason games would be played on Saturday.
“We’re sensitive to it,” Murphy said of overlapping with prep football. “We’re very supportive of youth and high school football, in terms of clinics and camps, and we’ve helped get funding from the league for a number of high school fields across the state. But we also have to balance, or we try to balance, what’s best for the Packers.”
Clark said studies have shown attendance is impacted when high schools go up against professional and college sporting events.
“We’re going to lose some people that would be general admission spectators,” said Bay Port athletic director Otis Chambers, whose school will host De Pere on Friday at the same time as the Packers-Seahawks game. “It’s unfortunate that it comes up against high school football, but we live with it.”
Chambers said it would be a nice gesture if the NFL kept Fridays open for high schools, but he’s realistic about the chances of that happening.
“You’re talking about hundred-million-dollar television contracts,” Chambers said. “We’re not on the same playing field.”
But prep games are a breeding ground for future NFL players. The least the league can do is show a little respect to the game’s roots.
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.