Photo by Brandon Vogel
Nebraska Football

Door Closed on Fall Ball, Husker AD Moos Says Playing 'Not Permissible'

August 13, 2020

Well, that settles that. 

During an appearance on the Husker Sports Nightly radio show Thursday evening, Husker Athletic Director Bill Moos closed and locked the door on any speculation Nebraska might try to engineer a defection from the Big Ten conference or play unsanctioned games this fall. 

“We felt if indeed the season was canceled that we needed to be prepared to look at some options and some alternatives to hopefully play six, seven, eight, nine, maybe 10 games with opponents outside of the Big Ten,” Moos said. “We were looking at that, hoping and planning to play that reduced 10-game schedule that was put out by the Big Ten, but wanted some options in the event we couldn’t. 

“That was not permissible primarily because the season really wasn’t canceled, it was postponed.”

The Big Ten, in its announcement, said the hope is to play in the spring. There’s been nothing so far that would lead one to believe the spring goal is anything more than a hope at this point. Moos said “hopefully we’re gonna play in the spring” or any time after the turn of the calendar year. 

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day on Wednesday floated an idea for an eight-game season that begins in January and ends before the NFL Draft, normally in April. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm on Thursday published his own proposal, a seven-page document in The Athletic that outlined an eight-game spring season beginning on Feb. 27, running consecutively through April 27, and then affords off time before a 10-game Fall 2021 season.

The Big Ten has yet to offer anything with regards to what a spring season would look like or when it might start, and recent comments from both Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez and Indiana coach Tom Allen suggest the idea has only really been a topic of discussion in recent weeks. Nevertheless, the league is hoping that is its path forward.

“That would have made it difficult to still play a series of non-conference games in the fall and then come back and play a conference season in the spring,” Moos said. “At least, that’s how the conference felt. It wasn’t how Scott (Frost) and I felt. At the end of the day, we are proud members of the Big Ten. It’s a prestigious conference and we will be in compliance, but we thought all the way until yesterday that we might have a chance to do that.”

Moos has maintained all along that Nebraska’s managing of the pandemic has afforded it a unique ability to conduct a season while keeping student-athletes safe. Frost said on Monday there’s nothing so far to lead the staff to suspect athletes have contracted the virus since workouts began.

“I don’t have license to talk about the number of players we’ve had that have tested positive but what I can tell you is we’re very sure that the vast majority, if not all of them, contracted the coronavirus somewhere outside of our building and not in our workouts,” he said.

However, Nebraska is not publicly releasing testing data. Frost said Monday he didn’t have license to talk specifics. Nebraska has reported only five positive tests from football players and one from a football staffer back in June.

“Our positioning here in Lincoln, Nebraska, is different than our peers in the Big Ten, with the possible exception of Iowa,” Moos said. “We're in a safe, clean environment. We have done everything to a T in regards to testing protocols. We could write the book on how to get a football team, volleyball team, soccer team ready for completion in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.”

To that end, Moos had no issues with his head coach’s fiery demeanor during a Monday press conference or his stark stance in asking to play a season. 

“We want to play no matter who it is or where it is,” Frost said then. “We’ll see how those chips fall. We certainly hope it’s in the Big Ten. If it isn’t, I think we’re prepared to look for other options.

“If football is a mitigating factor, if football is the reason kids are going to get sick... I’ll be the first one if I think football is the reason these guys are in danger to pull the plug,” Frost later added. “Our kids want to play, we want to let them play and I truly believe at the bottom of my heart believe this is the safest place for them.”

Moos said it’s important to remember those comments were made before the Big Ten’s announcement. As late as Wednesday, Nebraska held out hope there was a possibility it could play football games this fall. There was nothing in Frost’s tone or content, Moos thought, to suggest discontent with NU’s membership in the Big Ten, though. 

“He voiced what he felt,” Moos said. “I thought he was very appropriate and respectful to the Big Ten, as we all are.”

Despite several ESPN talking heads and an SI columnist suggesting Nebraska should pack up its belongings, tuck tail, and leave the Big Ten—or league commissioner Kevin Warren should demand an apology before kicking NU out—Moos said Nebraska is still on firm ground with the conference. 

University leadership, President Ted Carter and Chancellor Ronnie Green, released a joint statement Thursday morning saying UNL was a proud member of the Big Ten. A subsequent letter sent from the athletic department to season ticket holders made no mention of any desire to move forward with fall plans, rather stating that when more information was made available about a spring season, NU would let its season ticket holders know. 

When asked if the relationship between the Huskers and the Big Ten had been strained as a result of the 48-hour saga, Moos responded with an emphatic no.

“We like the Big Ten. We’re going to compete in the Big Ten and we’re going to be successful in the Big Ten,” he said. “That was a decision that was made 10 years ago and the decision stands and our future plans are to compete and be successful in all of our sport programs in this good conference.”

Nebraska’s fight for a fall season was largely a financial one. Asked about the ramifications of a canceled (or postponed) slate of games, Moos said the losses on a per-game basis stand to be around $12 million. 

In total, Moos said the athletic department alone has projected a budget deficit “north of $100 million.” Earlier this summer, facing a projected budget deficit of roughly $15 million, Nebraska announced its intention to trim the budget by 10%. That included the elimination of 17 different positions. 

Nebraska football earned $96.2 million in operating revenue for Fiscal 2019. A third of that came from ticket sales. As a whole, the athletic department posted $136.2 million in revenue, with $12.1 million in profits. Of the department's $124.1 million in expenses, only $27.7 million was related to gameday/travel/nonconference guarantees.

“If we can get some television revenue or parts of it from a non-traditional season, that will help," Moos said. “We've been meeting for quite some time and now have a solid feel for the dilemma we're facing. My senior staff, right now as we're speaking, is in our conference rooms looking at all the different ways we can address this.

"That is a daunting exercise.”

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