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Report: Husker Football Looking to Back Out of Playing Oklahoma in Game of the Century Anniversary

March 12, 2021

Nebraska, according to a report from Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, is trying to get out of playing Oklahoma on Sept. 18 in Norman.

Neither a program spokesperson or Nebraska’s athletic director responded to a request for comment. The Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple reported that sources confirmed to him that Nebraska “has looked into the feasibility of the move.”

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione responded to the reports Friday morning.

The contract between the two schools includes a $1 million buyout. 

Oklahoma is scheduled to come to Lincoln in 2022.

The program could have a number of motivations for trying to pull the plug on a road contest. 

After a season played without fans, Nebraska took a financial hit. It wasn’t the $100 million shortfall Nebraska braced for when the 2020 season was canceled, but Athletic Director Bill Moos told Hail Varsity in December of 2020 it was still expecting a decline in revenue around $45 million.

“We see about a $14 million net hit for every home game that we don’t have fans,” Moos told me. 

Last season, Nebraska played only four home games, none of which had fans in attendance. The original schedule featured seven home games. 

This year, the Huskers currently have seven home games on the schedule. Replacing a road trip to Norman with a home game could have a sizable impact on NU’s books if fans are allowed in large numbers, which Nebraska remains hopeful will be the case. 

Of course, Nebraska could also just want a lighter load. Nebraska officials weren’t shy in talking about the schedule handed to them last season by the Big Ten, and this year’s conference slate features crossover games against Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State.

The Husker season begins on the road on Aug. 28 against Illinois. Nebraska then plays Buffalo at home on Sept. 11. The game against Oklahoma was originally slated to begin a five games in five weeks stretch that saw Nebraska play at Oklahoma, at Michigan State, Northwestern, Michigan, and at Minnesota. 

Nebraska already has a third non-conference opponent locked in on Nov. 13—Southeastern Louisiana. If it gets out of the Oklahoma matchup but can’t find a partner to fill that Sept. 18 weekend, NU does have a bye week the weekend of Oct. 23.

The matchup with Oklahoma 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.

Coach Tom Osborne, during a media event earlier in the week, spoke about the history with Oklahoma. The Huskers intend to hold a reunion for the 1970 and 1971 championship teams that would be in addition to the celebration around the Game of the Century.

“When I was the athletic director, Joe Castiglione called me from Oklahoma and said, ‘We ought to get together again,'” Osborne said. “So we scheduled that, what was that? Eight or nine years now it’s been scheduled? I’ve thought a little bit about whether that was wise or not and circumstances change and Scott [Frost] has had to do a lot of rebuilding so we’ll see how it plays out. We’ll see how it goes.

“I think we’ll have a better team, speaking from the 50th row. I don’t have a lot of inside knowledge but I think there are going to be a lot of things that are going to be improved so I’m looking forward to the season.”

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