Will Michigan State play Michigan football in rivalry's first night game?

ROSEMONT, Ill. – If this year’s rivalry game against Michigan is going to be at night, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis remains in the dark.

Hollis said he has not heard yet if the Oct. 7 game in Ann Arbor will be played as a late kickoff for the first time in the history of the 109-game series that began in 1898.

“It would come out of the league office in conversations with the networks,” Hollis said Monday at the league athletic directors meeting at Big Ten headquarters. “It’s a little bit less on the institutions anymore.”

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A number of games between the Spartans and Wolverines have started at 3:30 p.m. and finished under lights in the fall. None have started at night.

Two of the biggest factors Hollis has cited for a decade is keeping students and fans safe “before the game, during the game and after the game,” and to prevent them from drinking all day to exacerbate the already-tense rivalry. But with the Big Ten Network and major networks airing more Saturday night games, the conversation of moving MSU-Michigan to a primetime TV spot has increased.

will-michigan-state-play-michigan-football-in-rivalrys-first-night-game photo 1

Sep 2, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans A.D. Mark Hollis comes out of tunnel before a game against the Furman Paladins at Spartan Stadium. (Photo: Mike Carter, USA TODAY Sports)

Last year’s game, a 32-23 Wolverines win in East Lansing, kicked off at noon. Thirteen of the Spartans’ 19 all-time night games at home have come since the BTN’s debut in 2007, but none against U-M.

“We’ve had some great experiences with night games in the past,” Hollis said. “My concern always goes to safety, and the safest place to play is when the sun’s shining. We’ll see where it goes, but we’re going to be playing more night games obviously in the league. You’re going to want to have the biggest and best games as part of those primetime packages.”

More: Michigan State football release non-conference schedule; bye weeks in flux

Michigan athletic director Warde Manual was not available at this week’s meetings in suburban Chicago.

Coming off a dismal 3-9 season, Hollis said season ticket sales “have been going well” but that MSU officials anticipated a dip with a schedule that does not feature marquee opponents Michigan or Ohio State despite having eight games at Spartan Stadium.

The Spartans will host Bowling Green (Sept. 2), Western Michigan (Sept. 9), Notre Dame (Sept. 23) and Iowa (Sept. 30) to begin this season before heading to U-M. They also host Indiana (Oct. 23), Northwestern (Oct. 28), Penn State (Nov. 4) and Maryland (Nov. 18).

“I know we’re close to where we had anticipated that we’d be. … There’s some challenges there, but I feel very good with where the numbers are,” Hollis said of ticket sales.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!

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