A little over two weeks ago, Nebraska was the butt of the college football world’s jokes after a report revealed that the Huskers had explored alternatives to playing at Oklahoma on Sept. 18. Athletic Director Bill Moos effectively confirmed the initial report from Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, saying on March 12 that “our administration did explore the possibility of adding an eighth home game this fall,” citing financial losses due to the pandemic. In the same statement, after a day of public blowback, Moos said the Huskers were excited to face the Sooners as scheduled.
Monday’s spring practice kickoff press conference was head coach Scott Frost’s first chance to speak on the matter. He noted the financial realities as a jumping off point for those discussions while also praising Moos for minimizing the impact when it came of staff furloughs and pay cuts over the past year.
“There was a $40–50 million hit to our department and I think there was a lot of discussion on ways to help with that,” Frost said. “The biggest thing for me as a football coach was we were scheduled to play in Ireland, Week 0. It made a lot of sense to take Week 1 off to get your feet back under you when you get stateside. Now that that game’s not overseas, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have a Week 1 bye. Bringing our players back a week early and then asking them to play one game and sit out doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“The biggest thing for me is I think Lincoln is starving, our local economy is starving for home games and getting in the stands to see our football team. For recruiting, too, we need home games and the earlier the better.”
Nebraska was scheduled to open the season Aug. 28 in Dublin against Illinois. That trip was canceled, but the game against the Illini––originally an Illinois home game, as it is now––is still on and scheduled for the week before most teams will play their first game.
It set up a unique schedule for Nebraska that includes just one home game for the Huskers––Sept. 11 against Buffalo––before October. Frost said that’s less than ideal from a recruiting perspective as “a lot of kids will have made their decisions by then.”
Those were the reasons cited for Nebraska looking at options other than playing Oklahoma in 2021.
The matchup with the Sooners, which has been a fixture in the top five in early preseason polling this year, was initially announced in 2012 as part of a home-and-home series to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1971 meeting between the two programs, dubbed the Game of the Century. The No. 1 ranked Huskers played No. 2 Oklahoma in Norman and won 35-31.
Nebraska last played in Norman in 2008, a 62-28 loss in Bo Pelini’s first season as head coach, but the Husker-Sooner rivalry remains one of the most fondly remembered in the sport The two teams have met 86 times with Oklahoma holding a 45-38-3 record in the series. The two programs combined for 38 Big Eight titles between 1958 and 1995.
“I grew up on Nebraska-Oklahoma,” Frost said, recalling some of the games he attended as a kid. “That’s my favorite rivalry in sports because it’s the one I grew up around. I will tell you to, our players are excited to take their chances against a really good team.”
Frost said he didn’t recall where the conversation about potentially replacing the Oklahoma game started, but reiterated that everything was on the table as the department considered ways to replace lost revenue.
“I’m glad it landed the way it did,” Frost said. “I just hope we can make some kind of alterations, I think Bill’s mentioned it to, so our fans can get in and see us sooner and we can get recruits on campus.
“I’m excited to play it and our kids are excited to play it. When they heard the news our leadership group called a meeting and wanted me there to make sure they had a chance to play against one of the best teams in the country.”
With the Oklahoma game on as scheduled, Nebraska appears to have one real option for getting a home game in Week 1. The Huskers are currently scheduled to play FCS Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 13. Moos, in a previous interview with the Omaha World Herald, mentioned that Nebraska could look to move that game up.