LINCOLN — As part of the small group of coaches working with Big Ten staff and administrators, Rhonda Revelle had a role in creating a schedule for the 2021 softball season.
The final product is a 44-game campaign that begins with two weekends of games in Florida and eight four-game series against Big Ten foes.
For the first time since joining the Big Ten nearly a decade ago, the Huskers will play every conference opponent in the same season. None of the 14 conference schools will play any nonconference opponents, and there also will not be a conference tournament in May.
“We wanted the schedule to be meaningful and competitive yet fall in line with what the conference was doing,” Revelle said. “We feel like we had a say creating these neutral sites. It will be the first time we’ve played every team. We’ve never been able to play all 13 schools in the same season.”
The schedule will feature 12 games played over two weekends in Florida to begin the season (six games each weekend), followed by 32 games played over an eight-week schedule on campus sites. Each school will host four weekends and travel four weekends.
Nebraska will play Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State twice, Michigan and Purdue three times and Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa and Northwestern four times.
The season is scheduled to begin Feb. 26. All 14 Big Ten teams will travel to Leesburg, Florida, for three days of competition at the Sleepy Hollow Sports Complex, which is located 58 miles northwest of Orlando International Airport.
Each team will play a doubleheader Friday, Saturday and Sunday against a different opponent each day. The Huskers will open the season with a doubleheader against Indiana on Feb. 26 before doubleheaders against Michigan State (Feb. 27) and Ohio State (Feb. 28).
After a week off, the teams will return to Leesburg March 11-14 for a pair of three-game series. Nebraska will have series with Michigan the first two days and Purdue the final two days. The first day of both series will be doubleheaders, followed by a single game the second day.
Nebraska will host four-game series with Penn State (March 26-28), Illinois (April 9-11), Wisconsin (April 23-25) and Maryland (April 30-May 2). The Huskers will travel to Rutgers (April 2-4), Minnesota (April 16-18), Iowa (May 7-9) and Northwestern (May 14-16).
Because of heavy snow and frigid temperatures since the beginning of practice, it’s not likely the Huskers will be able to do any drills or practice outdoors until they head to Florida.
Some of these series also will have the feel of playing a nonconference foe. For instance, Nebraska has not played Ohio State since 2016 or Penn State since 2017.
“Normally for a single conference weekend we’re preparing for just one team,” Revelle said. “Now we’ll be playing three different teams in one weekend. But no one is complaining, at least we’re playing games.”
Neither of the Florida weekends will allow for in-person scouting. Revelle said teams are only allowed to be at Sleepy Hollow when they’re scheduled to play.