LINCOLN — The COVID pandemic canceled Nebraska football's first attempt to play in Ireland.
The Huskers and Northwestern, their new dance partner for Dublin, are banking on that not happening again.
The two NUs announced Thursday they’ve agreed to play in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic on Aug. 27, 2022, nearly one year to the day Nebraska was supposed to take on Illinois in the same event. Because of COVID and the precautions to prevent its spread, that game was moved to Champaign for this year.
An Oct. 8, 2022 game at Northwestern — which is giving up its home date — now becomes a marquee overseas contest that will draw more media attention and offer players a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
“The trip to Ireland provides great exposure for the Nebraska football program and a unique experience for our players and Husker fans,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “Our primary focus for the trip will be to play a football game against an outstanding opponent in Northwestern. At the same time, this will be a great cultural opportunity for our young men to visit a part of the world that most of them have not seen.”
Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald also called the game “an incredible opportunity” for the entire university community.
"We are thrilled that our program will get to experience the beautiful Irish culture, while we continue to help grow the game of college football on a global stage,” Fitzgerald said. “It's an honor to be included in this once-in-a-lifetime event, and we can't wait to have the Northwestern faithful join us in one of the world's most amazing settings."
Northwestern has been open to specialty games in the past, such as playing at Wrigley Field. Nebraska will be playing its first neutral site regular-season game since 1998 — when it beat Oklahoma State 24-17 in Kansas City — and its first overseas game since 1992, when NU beat Kansas State 38-24 in Tokyo, Japan.
The Huskers had hoped to play Illinois in Ireland, but the COVID pandemic made the trip less and less likely the closer the event loomed. In mid-February, the game was formally canceled, and Nebraska started looking into options of playing in 2022.
"The young men in our program have been looking forward to this trip and we are happy to provide them this memorable experience,” NU Athletic Director Bill Moos said. “I know our great Husker fan base will be excited as well and the opportunity to travel to Ireland to see their team compete on an international stage will truly be special.”
Alison Metcalfe, an executive vice president with Tourism Ireland, said the nation expects to receive about 23,000 fans from the United States for the game.
“We cannot wait to roll out the ‘green carpet’ and welcome them to Dublin and Ireland,” Metcalfe said.
Fans interested in attending the game can go to CollegeFootballIreland.com and put down a $250 deposit to secure their ticket and travel package. According to a press release, the game will be organized by Irish American Events Ltd., a joint venture between On Location and Corporate.ie, which have been involved in college football games in Ireland previously.
As of now, Nebraska has not altered any other aspect of its 2022 schedule. It plans on playing Ireland Aug. 27 and returning to host North Dakota Sept. 3, Georgia Southern Sept. 10 and Oklahoma Sept. 17.
NU’s bye dates in 2022 are Oct. 8 and Oct. 29.