Michigan to host first night football game

For years, night football at Michigan Stadium has been brought up, only to be shot down.

Michigan's brass has been generally opposed to night football, so games remained early-afternoon affairs. It didn't help that the tradition-bound Big Ten has scheduled fewer night games than the other major conferences.

But Michigan now has a head football coach (Rich Rodriguez) open to night football and ramping up the in-game atmosphere. And, more importantly, UM has a new athletic director in David Brandon who doesn't mind shaking things up.

As a result, night football finally will come to the Big House.

Michigan announced Thursday that it will host Notre Dame under the lights on Sept. 10, 2011, marking the first night football game at Michigan Stadium. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. ET and be televised nationally by ESPN or ESPN2.

My guess is most Michigan fans will welcome this news. Getting the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry under the lights should create an unbelievable atmosphere, the one Rodriguez wants to create, at the renovated Big House.

"Our players have always enjoyed playing night games and I think it's something that our fans will truly enjoy and embrace," Rodriguez said in a statement. "I expect the atmosphere will be electric for this match-up at the Big House."

Michigan owns a 22-11 record in prime-time games (kickoff after 5 p.m. local time), having won 11 of its last 14 appearances. U-M is 19-5 on the road and 3-6 in bowl games. The Wolverines are 0-3 in night games against Notre Dame, playing three times under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium (1982, 1988, 1990).

It's amazing to see how a new athletics director can change long-held views on scheduling issues. Brandon clearly understands the value night football can bring to a school, and it's a huge advantage for the home team.

Michigan-Notre Dame is almost always a huge deal, but playing under the lights enhances things.