Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos on Friday afternoon affirmed his football program’s intention to play a nonconference game against former conference rival Oklahoma this fall after reporting earlier in the day suggested the Huskers were looking for opportunities to back out of the game.
"The University of Nebraska is looking forward to playing Oklahoma in Norman on (Sept. 18),” Moos said in a statement. "Due to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to Husker Athletics and the local community, our administration did explore the possibility of adding an eighth home game this fall. That option would have helped us mitigate cost-cutting measures and provide a much-needed boost to our local economy. Ultimately, the decision was made to move forward with our game at Oklahoma in 2021.
"We have the utmost respect for the University of Oklahoma, and this storied rivalry, and I know our fans have been excited about this series for a long time."
Stadium first reported that Nebraska had been in contact with other teams about potentially serving as a replacement for the Sooners and playing against Nebraska in Lincoln on Sept. 18, and sources confirmed to the Journal Star that NU has looked into the feasibility of the move.
Instead, the former conference rivals will play the first of what is slated to be a four-game series.
The Huskers and Sooners put the home-and-home together all the way back in 2012. The announcement of the game came in the final weeks before then-athletic director Tom Osborne retired. The programs timed the games to line up with the 50th anniversary of the 1971 "Game of the Century."
NU and OU have played each other 86 times but have not faced each other since Dec. 4, 2010, not long before the Huskers officially joined the Big Ten.
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione released a statement Friday morning that read, in part, "We fully intend and expect to play the game as it is scheduled."
"The Oklahoma-Nebraska football series represents one of the most unique traditional rivalries in college football," the statement said. "It features fierce competition, yet genuine mutual respect between the programs and fan bases. The planning for this game was intentional as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century.
"We've been looking forward to celebrating these two storied programs and have collaborated on various aspects of what promises to be a special weekend."
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley referred local reporters to Castiglione's statement and added, "We can't wait to play it here in September."
The contract between Nebraska and Oklahoma includes a $1 million buyout. The teams are also supposed to play in Lincoln in 2022. In 2016, the teams added two more games to the series, a home-and-home in 2029 and 2030.
Nebraska is set to play five Big Ten games at home this fall, so if it had backed out of the game against the Sooners and played a nonconference home game, it would have been an extra home game compared with a normal year, as Moos referenced in his statement.
NU typically generates about $5 million per home game in ticket sales and concessions, but the net gain for a rescheduled home game would be less than that considering the buyout and the need to pay a guarantee to a potential new opponent to come to Lincoln. It would be even less, of course, if there is any limitation on capacity at Memorial Stadium this fall.
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