Georgia Tech football to host Friday game for first time in 62 years

Georgia Tech's 2020 football schedule

At ESPN’s request, Georgia Tech’s schedule will now include a rarity — a Friday night home game. The Yellow Jackets have moved their Sept. 19 game against Central Florida up one day to the 18th, a Friday.

For Tech, the benefit is the opportunity to play on either ESPN or ESPN2 in a prime-time window when there will be scant competition from other college football games. The Yellow Jackets have made frequent appearances on Thursday-night games over the years, taking pride in hosting a game under the Bobby Dodd Stadium lights against the backdrop of Midtown Atlanta.

As of Thursday, there was only one other FBS game being played Sept. 18, according to the ESPN website, an Iowa-Minnesota game.

Given the guaranteed prime-time kickoff, Tech has made it its annual white-out game.

However, the game risks drawing attention and fans away from high-school football games across the state, as high-school games have traditionally been played on Friday nights. The tension has been felt across the ACC, which since 2013 has played Friday night games each season as part of its contract with ESPN. A game at Tech presents its own additional challenge, as Friday-night traffic in Atlanta can be notoriously difficult.

During former coach Paul Johnson’s tenure, in fact, Tech requested not to be assigned Friday night home games to avoid conflicts with high-school football. The aversion to Friday home games goes much farther back. The last Jackets’ home game on a Friday was during the Bobby Dodd era — 1958.

Aware of the potential response, coach Geoff Collins got in touch with dozens of high-school coaches in the state to receive their feedback before the school accepted ESPN’s request. The response was “overwhelmingly supportive,” according to a team spokesman.

Cedar Grove High coach Miguel Patrick said he told Collins that he supported the move, as it was an opportunity for Tech to play on a national stage and elevate the team.

“I thought it was a good thing,” Patrick said. “I don’t think it’ll take anything away from high-school football in the state of Georgia. Our fans are our fans, and people are going to be there (at high-school games) on Friday nights.”

Bobby May, coach at Westlake High, backed Collins on similar grounds, saying it was a valuable opportunity to draw attention.

“I think maybe it hurts a couple people here and there,” May said. “I don’t think it’s anything like nobody’s going to show up at the high-school games because they’re going to Tech.”

Troup County High coach Tanner Glisson was similarly supportive. Further, he said that Collins seemed genuinely interested in the response of Glisson and his colleagues, as he told Glisson that he wouldn’t play on Friday night if the feedback was negative. Glisson was appreciative of Collins’ proactive position, saying it shows his connection with the high-school coaches in the state.

“That was awesome,” Glisson said. “I just really appreciate him doing that.”

“I don’t think it’ll have an impact on our games,” said Steven Craft, athletic director of Fulton County Schools. “The fans that want to come to high-school football are going to choose to come to high-school football vs. college football on a Friday night.”

DeKalb County School District athletic director James P. Jackson said he was not bothered by the move.

“I think it’ll hurt a little bit for our district, (but) I don’t think it’ll be that big of a hit,” he said. “I know they’re trying to do some creative stuff to get the fan base involved and get the city excited.”

It does mean that one group of people that Collins has particularly sought to make an impression on — recruits — will be almost unanimously unable to attend. The athletic department is exploring the possibility of treating a different group, such as first responders or military personnel, to the game-day experience normally offered to recruits.