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And Then There Were Three

The exclusive fraternity of "Power 5 Conference Schools Without Permanent Lights" just got more exclusive.

Morgan Burke sure as shit didn't pay for those lights.
Morgan Burke sure as shit didn't pay for those lights.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As Purdue continues to have dismal attendance and lacks a real commitment to football, the rest of the country moves forward. Just a few years ago most of the Big Ten was without permanent lights. That number eventually dwindled to four schools before this season: Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern, and Michigan State.

That number is now three thanks to OMHR:

One of the excuses that Purdue has always put forward as a reason for not having lights installed is cost. I have seen numbers in the neighborhood of $2-3 million for permanent fixtures. But when high schools and MAC schools easily install them I thought that was questionable. It turns out I was right:

Department spokesman Steve Roe said the additional lighting came at an estimated cost of $375,000. During past night events at Kinnick Stadium, temporary lighting was brought in at a cost of between $50,000 and $60,000 per event, according to Roe.

Now, admittedly, Iowa already had some practice lights at Kinnick since 2012. This basically doubled the candlepower to make it bright enough for TV. So if you take the $375,000 and double it that is $750,000 for lights at a stadium that currently seats about 13,000 more people. Purdue is also a program int he black, while Iowa is not.

The article about Iowa goes on to state that other events can now be held at the stadium that can easily help offset the cost of lights (which is minimal from a University willing to actually spend money and they still get the same very large BTN check Purdue gets). For example: Many B1G stadiums will host all-day HS extravaganzas featuring 3-4 HS games in a day. Lucas Oil Stadium and Ball State do that here in Indiana. It is a source of revenue for a school, like Purdue, looking for every little drop of revenue.

Morgan Burke has mentioned lights as possibility, but do not expect them soon. They are at least on the drawing board as part of the Purdue football "master plan", but they are a low priority. The priorities were outlined as follows:

The facility piece is expected to become finalized by the end of the year, assuming president Mitch Daniels and the board of trustees approves the project. Until then, no firm timetable on the when facility upgrades will be completed and it's too early to determine costs but expect a major capital campaign to begin shortly after receiving board approval.

"It's similar to the Mackey Complex Project where we did six or seven projects," Burke said during an interview Wednesday. "I don't know if it will be six or seven, but it will be some sequence of projects. We have to live in these places while you're doing the work."

Among the major initiatives, all ahead of lights:

  • Expanding the current locker room
  • Expanding the auxiliary space in the Mollenkopf
  • Expanding the weight room
  • Adding more sports medicine facilities

What's more disappointing is that Morgantown is likely here to stay:

"The team performance will have a lot to do with selling premium space," Burke said of the south end zone. "This one (Mollenkopf), you need to help him where he is right now. (South End Zone) is a combination of how quickly you get the interest and the people coming back to the venue."

Audio and visual enhancements (video and ribbon boards) and the addition of permanent lights in Ross-Stadium remain part of future upgrades.

So, essentially, our locker room sucks compared to the rest of the Big Ten, the weight room is too small, the South End Zone is on the back burner much like the long-forgotten upper deck that could have been built in the early 2000s when Purdue was actually good, and it may not be long before Ross-Ade Stadium becomes the Wrigley Field of college football (unless we have a bunch of non-existent large donors willing to spend huge dollars to watch crappy football). We have to expand the locker room, team facilities, and training facilities all while dwindling in attendance, limiting the cash flow, and hoping the generally tight Board of Trustees approves for said upgrades that are necessary to get into an arms race that Mitch Daniels has openly said he does not want to join.

My question is what happened to the plan to have the South End Zone complex take the place as football facilities and locker rooms? That was part of the original plan, but when surveys were submitted to JPC members earlier this summer there was no mention of it. Instead, it was all shiny new premium seating for the very wealthy (when we can't even come close to selling the premium seating inventory we have now).

As for our lightless brothers, we have company for now. Not only are Purdue, Michigan State, and Northwestern the last three Big Ten stadiums missing permanent lights, they are the last three schools in a major FBS conference as such. Michigan State has been working on several renovations of late and regularly brings in temporary lights (for example, this weekend vs. Oregon), but I cannot find any evidence of plans to bring in permanent ones. Given their recent run of success, however, it is likely only a matter of time.

Northwestern may be the last holdout. Being a private school in a small, quiet suburb of Chicago they face many of the problems with the local government that Wrigley did for decades. I could not find any plans for them, either, but they, like Michigan State, have actively pursued at least one night game with temporary lights pretty regularly. They are playing Ball State at 7pm local time this year, therefore showing they are willing to pay for one night game per year again as this is the sixth straight season they have had at least one night game. Since it is Ball State it is obvious that TV is not paying the roughly $50,000 cost for temporary lights.

So, if you're scoring at home:

Michigan State - Regularly has night games, seems close installing lights

Northwestern - Willing to shell out for one home night game per year

Purdue - "We're paying at noon unless we have an opponent that TV wants to see later!"

Of course, in the program's current state there is zero chance of a home night game with TV-financed lights unless we have a quality opponent coming to town, and even then, our stink has dragged Ohio State into the noon time slot.