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Brandon: 'If this goes well, I would like to do one night game per year'

Jed Moch/Daily
Dave Brandon could potentially schedule a night game against Michigan State in the future, but he said Ohio State probably wouldn't be an option. Buy this photo

By Tim Rohan, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 6, 2011

Attention students and unruly fans of the Michigan football team. Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon has a warning for you: Night games at the Big House are a privilege, not a right. Don’t take it for granted — and you’ll earn another, and another.

“If this goes well, I would like to do one night game per year — if it goes well.” Brandon said. “If it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter what I’d like to do.

“To an extent, we could move into a situation where we offer this opportunity on a once-a-season basis. And that wouldn’t be a guarantee — it would have to be the right team, the right situation.”

Even though Brandon said Notre Dame was the right choice to play in the first night game in the Big House, the right team could be anyone. Brandon doesn’t want the night game to be exclusively against one opponent every year.

Brandon said he doesn’t think a Big Ten team would turn down the chance to play a night game in the Big House. And he also said it doesn’t have to necessarily be a rival or a big-time opponent.

He’s open to “fun” options. But that doesn’t include Ohio State. Brandon won’t even have the night-game conversation with the Buckeyes because one of Brandon’s criteria was that he’d like to schedule potential night games before the last weekend in October, to avoid playing in cold conditions at night. However, Michigan State could be in.

“That’d be kind of fun,” Brandon said.

Whenever the Big Ten athletic directors get together, Brandon asks questions, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t with other schools’ night games.

The answer was to watch out for the few “knuckleheads” that try to create a “less than positive” environment. Wisconsin previously made students who were kicked out of games for alcohol violations take breathalyzer tests before being admitted to the stadium.

This is the scenario where the Michigan-Notre Dame game doesn’t go well, and the privilege is taken away.

“I don’t think we need to be subtle about it,” Brandon said. “It’s a Saturday night. It starts at 8 o’clock and people have all day to kind of celebrate and prepare for this momentous occasion. And the people we worry about are the people that over-celebrate.

“If it can be a positive experience … and we don’t have any incidents that make anybody look at this and say ... 'This was a bad decision to do a night game,’ then I think we’ll have achieved a successful outcome.”

Those who aren’t in a condition to enter the stadium or who try to bring alcohol, “they’ll be dealt with,” he said.

Brandon estimated that 114,000 to 115,000 people will be in attendance, the largest crowd in Michigan history.

Brandon said the game basically sold out the minute tickets went out. At a regents meeting a few weeks ago, he half-joked that there weren’t any tickets left, even for the regents.

Initially, Brandon's office received a 99-percent approval rating for the game, and one percent preferred Bo Schembechler’s philosophy of playing at noon.

Now, Brandon says, that one percent is asking for more tickets to the game.

“We could easily sell another 25 or 50,000 tickets to this game,” Brandon said. “(The) supply and demand models get blown up here. We wish we had a bigger stadium.

“In modern times, based on a lot of people that have been around for a long time, around Michigan football, the Athletic Department, and all of the records that we have, this would be the highest-demanded ticket ever.”

The only thing holding something like this back before may have been a lack of stadium lighting, which has since been installed. And events like the Big Chill at the Big House last December and past football games ending at night gave Brandon a feel for how everything would work.

It’ll take a few weeks of debriefing and review, but Brandon should come to a decision as to whether the night game could become an annual event.

“We’d love to see this be something that we can do from time to time,” Brandon said. "But Saturday’s going to be a significant test.

“We know this is doable. This is not Mission Impossible. But we need to do it well. And we need to do it the Michigan way.”

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