Bob Hunter commentary | Rumblings: TV might want Big Ten football on Friday nights

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Several media outlets reported early in the week that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was seeking input from school officials about playing Friday night football games. The quest apparently came in part because a television network might demand it to be part of a deal as the conference seeks to sweeten that already lucrative pot once the Big Ten contract goes up for bid in advance of the expiration of its pact with ESPN-ABC after the 2017 season.

Yesterday in Chicago, Delany said the league is not looking to schedule Friday football games, except on Thanksgiving and Labor Day weekends.

“Beyond that, I don’t think while I’m around here you’re going to see Friday night games,” he said. “Down the road? Who knows?”

This makes it sound as if the “input” Delany received was decidedly against the idea. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said through a spokesman the idea is “exploratory” at the moment, and that there has been no serious discussion about it yet. He added that the Ohio High School Athletic Association would be made aware of any plan for a Friday night OSU game as far in advance as possible if/when it might happen.

The initial reaction on various social-media sites is that it would be an invasion of the “ Friday Night Lights” window long held by high-school football across the country, and considered sacred by many in Ohio. An Ohio State game on a Friday night — whether at home or on the road — no doubt would put a dent on attendance at high school games in the state.

There have been televised college games on Friday nights for several years from various other conferences.

Daniel Paladini, a central midfielder acquired by the Crew from the Chicago Fire for a fourth-round draft pick in December, appears to be a long shot to be ready for the start of the season.

Paladini, 29, has practiced one day in the past three-plus weeks because of knee inflammation/fluid. He is expected to get some spot starts this season, although he came off the bench for Chicago the past two seasons after logging 16 starts in 2011.

Clark MacLean, the son of former Blue Jackets president, general manager and coach Doug MacLean, is working for Achieve Sports Management with hopes of becoming a sports agent. Clark, 26, played hockey for the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets and went on to a brief pro career.

His father guided the Columbus franchise from its beginnings until his firing after the 2006-07 season. He has spent recent seasons as a radio talk-show host and network hockey analyst in Toronto.

By releasing linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, the Cleveland Browns can add another position to their “ need” list that already includes quarterback, receiver, running back, cornerback and guard. The list might grow even more if center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward decide to become free agents.

The team’s new front office obviously felt that Jackson wasn’t worth the high cost; he had a $4 m illion roster bonus due March 16 as well as a $100,000 workout bonus. He was set to earn $3.933 m illion next season, $6.4 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2016.

But the Browns appear unlikely to get immediate help in the draft: The inside linebacker group is thin and the best of the group — C.J. Mosley of Alabama — isn’t good enough to be considered with the fourth overall pick but probably will be gone by the time the Browns pick again, at No. 26.

Pickings also appear slim in free agency. Donald Butler of San Diego and Brandon Spikes of New England might enter the market, but the Browns probably would have to overpay to get them. Karlos Dansby of Arizona might also reach free agency, though he will be 33 in November, two years older than Jackson.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said the big pay raises awarded to the football coaching staff this week will not result in higher ticket prices. He told reporters in Grand Rapids, Mich., that he believes keeping Spartan Stadium filled is a priority for the school.

“The revenue growth will be in expanding the number of people sitting in the seats,” Hollis said. “It’s a call to action to our fans that we need you in our stadium.”

Coach Mark Dantonio received an 83 percent raise to his six-year rollover compensation package, up to $3.64 million annually. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had his three-year contract upped by more than 75 percent, to $904,583 annually.

“The compensation is not only a reward for what’s happened the last seven years but the anticipation of where I think our program is headed in the future,” Hollis said.

The Spartans beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and then beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen set foot on a big-league field this week for the first time since 2012, appearing before a Blue Jays-Phillies spring-training game as an inactive but not officially retired player.

Reds manager Bryan Price made it clear to The Cincinnati Enquirer that the team would like to have Rolen assume a role in the organization, but there was no indication that Rolen is ready for that. He told MLB.com he has not figured out how he will replace baseball. He plays golf, works with his charity, helps the basketball and baseball programs at Indiana University and coaches his kids.

“I’ll tell you what I miss: I miss the accountability,” Rolen said. “I miss having a job. I miss having a drive, a direction and being tired. I miss being miserable. That’s one of the biggest adjustments. ... You put in so many hours of work doing one thing, and then you’re not doing it anymore. I’m a driven person, and you can’t drive 100 mph to the golf course.”

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

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