By Marty Hendricks —
Football is king in Wisconsin.
Under the lights on Friday nights in the fall, high school football takes center stage in communities across Wisconsin.
On Saturday afternoons and evenings, local and major college football games are attended in person and viewed on television, with all eyes on the Wisconsin Badgers—a perennial Big Ten contender and college bowl game participant.
The tradition-rich Packers and NFL games dominate on Sundays, which have long been broadcast by FOX Television.
FOX’s college football line-up this fall, which historically featured Big 12 and PAC 12 games, is getting bigger—as in the Big Ten Conference.
At the annual upfront presentation in May, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh announced to the advertising world that his Wolverines would face Ohio State on Nov. 25 on FOX in a renewal of one of college football’s greatest rivalries.
“FOX is (now) the primary home for Big Ten football,” Harbaugh told a New York audience at the annual unveiling of 2017 fall programming.
Harbaugh’s former head coach during his NFL tenure with the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka, is a die-hard fan of college football.
“I enjoy watching college football on Saturdays,” Ditka said. “I like Big Ten football and teams like Michigan and Wisconsin. I like all the conferences, with the different styles and coaches. I’m a big college football fan just like everybody else.”
Judson Beck, FOX 25/48 general manager and vice president, said the addition of Big Ten football—and Badgers games—enriches FOX’s arsenal of sports programming.
“Falls on Fox are unbelievable,” Beck said. “We have the NFC including most of the Packer games, the World Series in October, and now Big Ten football along with our Big 12 and PAC 12 games. Some weeks we will have college football triple headers on Saturdays. We feel blessed to have such quality sports entertainment for our viewers.
“Historically we’ve carried Big 12 and PAC 12 during the regular season along with the PAC 12 Championship and Big Ten Championship games. Last year we had the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game and nearly 60,000 adults tuned in for that game on Fox 25/48. With Big Ten games this fall, we will engage thousands of new viewers on our station every Saturday.”
While the schedule is not yet finalized, some compelling match-ups are set.
Ohio State travels to the Big House in Ann Arbor to face Michigan at 11 a.m. on Nov. 25 in a marquee contest, and Oregon hosts Nebraska in a PAC 12 opener at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. A week later, Army faces Ohio State at 3:30 p.m. and Notre Dame travels to Michigan State in a 7 p.m. contest on Sept. 23. On Oct. 28, Penn State takes on the Buckeyes in Ohio at 2:30 p.m.
Beck said the final FOX schedule should include at least two Wisconsin Badgers games. “Being the primary network for Big Ten football is a huge win for our station and our advertisers,” he said. “During football season, we’ve dominated viewing on Sunday for years; now we get to extend that to Saturday.”