After a busy day of NCAA news including the return of college football in the Big Ten, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos joined Greg Sharpe on Wednesday Night’s edition of Sports Nightly.
“It is a celebration and I feel, first of all, so good for our players, our student-athletes,” Moos said. “They’ve been patient, they’ve stayed focus—which isn’t always easy—and they want to play, our coaches want to coach and our fans want to watch. We’re going to be able to do all of that now and we’re excited. It’s been a six-month ordeal and had its ups and downs, and we’re finally there. People can look forward to a 2020 football season.”
The return of college football in the conference includes a stringent set of medical protocols to prioritize student-athletes’ health and prevent sport-related COVID-19 breakouts. Moos told Sharpe he feels good about Nebraska’s ability to follow the protocols and make season happen.
“We’ve had a good protocol from the very beginning when we brought our players back and all of our student-athletes,” Moos said. “We now have something that we can refer to when we’re talking to them about being responsible socially. You can infect an entire team and it’s going to have a chance of not allowing us to play in a week or so. When you have something that is close to the heart, and these young people want to play, then I think we’ll be fine.
“We’ve had a few positives. We’re way down compared to a lot of the other programs in our conference footprint and I’m confident that our people will continue to do a good job there. We’ve had plenty of practice—we’ve been testing and social distancing and contact tracing and all the things that are common terms now that we didn’t even know about six months ago. Our staff and our medical people, the wonderful help we’ve gotten from UNMC in Omaha has been fabulous, so I feel real good about it.”
Nebraska has been consistent and vocal with its desire to play from the start, from the administration to the coaching staff to the players (and their parents). The Huskers have earned plenty of attention—both positive and negative—from national media throughout this process. Sharpe asked Moos for his thoughts on Nebraska earning a reputation as a “maverick” or a “black sheep” in the conference.
“We were vocal and I’ve got to say it worked,” Moos said, before chuckling. “All along, we were pretty close-knit as a group of athletic directors. By the way, I did mention earlier in the press conference that we know each other a lot better now than we did six months ago—I’m talking about the ADs—and I think we have a mutual respect across the board. All of us wanted to play, some to more degrees than others and some for various reasons.
“But here at Nebraska I felt, and Scott [Frost] did as well, and of course Chancellor [Ronnie] Green supported it, we’re in a different part of the country than most of the rest of the Big Ten and you look to the south and Kansas and Kansas State are playing, you’ve got Iowa State playing, the community of Lincoln is safe and very clean in regards to COVID. We were vocal; yeah, I pushed; persistent; whenever there was a red flag, we looked at it and tried to resolve it. Pretty soon it was contagious and here we are today with the good news.”
With today’s news, the Huskers will be allowed to ramp up their practice efforts starting immediately, though that doesn’t include fully-padded practices just yet.
“We got word today that we can go from 12 to 20 hours, which is normal in a football season—20 hours a week,” Moos said. “We will be confined to no pads until everybody has tests so that we can be testing six times a week. We think that’s probably going to be around the 30th of September. So we can get after it, a lot more time on the field and in the film room, weight room, so we can get back to somewhat of a normal routine.”
Other news and notes:
>> Soon after the Big Ten canceled the fall sports season, Nebraska shut down the training table where student-athletes can go for a good meal. Moos said with Wednesday’s news they plan to open the training table back up but will restrict its use to just the football team.
“That’s the only sport that’s going to be competing in the fall, and we do not want to, for lack of a better term, cross-pollinate our programs,” Moos said. “We will lock down North Stadium pretty much, just confined to football student-athletes and start to fuel them as we get closer to that September 30th date.”
>> Among the protocols for the return to play is the agreement that games will be played without fans throughout the conference. Moos and Green pushed really hard for that decision regarding fans in stadiums to be left to the individual schools and Moos said he felt Nebraska was in a good place to at least get some fans to the games, but they were willing to accept the Big Ten’s decision if it was going to be a deal-breaker.
>> Moos said the athletic directors will start discussing travel and game management on Thursday; he said he thinks they can have “somewhat of a normal travel routine.”
>> Sharpe asked Moos about the possibility of multiple Friday games as part of the new schedule. Moos, who is on the committee that will determine the schedule, said it was too early to speak definitively, but he does plan to stress that Nebraska would love to have a Black Friday game, especially if it’s against Iowa. The committee could get creative with game days to provide more inventory for their TV partners.
>> Moos did say the university will be able to bring back a “small percentage” of employees that have been furloughed, particularly those who work at the training table and in game day management. Moos called it a “good feeling” knowing they’ll be able to bring some people back and said he’s looking forward to when they’ll be able to welcome everyone back to work.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.