LINCOLN — After recommitting to the Sept. 18 game at Oklahoma, Nebraska football is now “exploring” whether it can play a Sept. 4 home nonconference game after it starts its season at Illinois, Athletic Director Bill Moos said Wednesday.
The Sept. 4, 2021, date — originally a game against Northern Illinois — was vacated just before NU announced it was playing Illinois in Ireland. The NIU game was moved to 2027, and the Huskers hoped to use the early bye just before Labor Day — the traditional starting weekend for college football — to recover physically from a week overseas.
Due to the pandemic, the Nebraska-Illinois game was moved to Champaign for Aug. 28, and an international trip became a 36-hour stay in the Midwest.
“When we were going to Ireland, we moved off of that next week so we could recover,” Moos said. “And, really, there might be some benefit for us to now play that next week because we’re not going to Ireland.”
The lack of early home games on NU’s 2021 schedule — helpful for recruiting, Moos said, and also Lincoln businesses — was one of the reasons Nebraska considered getting out of its Game of the Century 50th anniversary contest with Oklahoma for an eighth home game. NU plays one home game — Sept. 11 vs. Buffalo — before October.
After swift criticism last Friday, Moos said in a statement the Huskers were still committed to playing the Sooners in Norman.
Moos reiterated Nebraska’s commitment Wednesday, citing his “love of rivalries” and his “college football traditionalist” perspective. NU will have also a $42 million budget deficit after this year.
“We were just exploring different ways of addressing our financial problem, and that was one of them, and not even that we were dead set on doing it,” Moos said. “What would an eighth home game look like financially? Not that we’re going to do it, but let’s get it on paper and see what it would do, and if it would be a big enough impact on our situation.
“It got out before it had any wheels or before it was going to have any wheels.”
Coach Scott Frost, Moos said, “has been in the conversations” about all of the options on the table.
“It’s been primarily him and me, and then updating upper administration,” Moos said. “The good thing is, that’s behind us now, and we know we’re playing Oklahoma.”
Who might NU play Sept. 4? Will it play Sept. 4? Moos isn’t sure yet.
Nebraska will pay Southeastern Louisiana $600,000 to play the Huskers Nov. 13 in Memorial Stadium. NU could move its game with the Lions to Sept. 4, but they currently have a Sept. 4 game against North Alabama. Other teams may be available Sept. 4, but NU doesn’t have a lot of time to maneuver, and adding a team would likely mean moving Southeastern Louisiana to a different year. Teams don't get a 13-game regular season schedule, typically, unless a road trip to Hawaii is involved.
“We’re exploring what we can do,” Moos said. “It would have to be a nonconference situation, because everybody else in the Big Ten is all set. We’re just brainstorming. It’s late. We’re getting into April — five months out of the ball getting kicked off.”
More notes from a talk with Moos:
» Nebraska is “very close” to hitting its fundraising goal for the new football facility, Moos said, after securing two “big gifts” totaling $7 million in the last few weeks. NU hopes to begin breaking ground on the facility this summer. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved in December revisions to the project so that it could be done in two phases instead of one.
“I feeling really good about getting to the goal at the end of the month,” Moos said. “That’s our target.”
Despite COVID, Moos said, donors largest and modest have been faithful to their word.
“We haven’t lost one pledge, written or verbal,” he said.
» The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors will have the final say, Moos said, on whether Nebraska or any other Big Ten school can have fans at their spring games. Moos anticipates a decision will be made in the next couple weeks.
“There’s a lot of support for it among the ADs,” Moos said. “I think that’s promising. At the end of the day, it’ll be decided by the presidents and chancellors. Allowing attendance at NCAA championships and the Big Ten’s approval of allowing fans at championships on local campuses, that’s a real positive sign.”
If the league COP/C approves fans for spring games, Moos prefers that Lincoln/Lancaster County health officials advise on fan capacity at Memorial Stadium instead of a Big Ten standard rule.