Fox's Michael Mulvihill appeared on The Joel Klatt Show this week CREDIT: The Joel Klatt Show

When the news dropped last September that WWE Smackdown would leave Fox to return to its former home of USA Network, the prevailing thought was that the network would fill the void with live sports.

Then, when Smackdown‘s departure was revealed to have been moved up from October to September earlier this month, it seemed like it was only a matter of time until the other shoe dropped there and we’d hear Fox’s replacement plans. Adding more to the belief that Fox was going to make Friday night a sports showcase was the announcement that Fox would be moving UFL games to its spring and summer schedule next year. But what about this coming fall and winter? Had Fox secured all the approvals and conference buy-in to fill each Friday night with college football and basketball games?

On Monday, we got our strongest indication that they have indeed paved the way for live sports to replace Smackdown each week.

This week, Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ president of insights and analytics, appeared on The Joel Klatt Show and gave a hint about the future of the Friday primetime slot.

“We’re opening up Friday night for college football. We are then opening up Friday night starting in December for college basketball,” Mulvihill said around the 21-minute mark of the podcast.

“We’ll have a September through mid-March collegiate sports presence on Friday night. This is the first time we’ve had two nights of our primetime schedule devoted to college sports every week. It’s been a very involved process with the Big Ten and Big 12 and coaches and ADs and schools in both conferences,” he added.

Mulvihill said it could be easier for schools to stand out by playing on Friday nights instead of during the traditional Saturday college football slate, which can get very crowded.

“It’s a chance for us to further the visibility of the Big Ten and Big 12 and hopefully raise the profile of college football, generally.”

An official announcement is expected on Friday.

In September, college football reporter Jon Wilner said he expects the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks to be heavily featured on Fox’s Friday night schedule which makes sense given their home games doesn’t fit Fox’s strategy of being played at noon eastern which would be 9am PT. Friday night though would certainly help Fox fill out their fall lineup.

Klatt and Mulvihill hinted  that we may hear more about the schedule this week. For college football fans who have trouble watching all of the game on Saturday, this is welcomed news although a lot of football fans and coaches believe the incursion of big time football onto Friday nights is infringing on high school football and their significance within their local communities.

[The Joel Klatt Show, Jon Wilner]