Nebraska football’s big trip got delayed by a year, but the Cornhuskers are going to play in Ireland, after all.
The school announced Thursday that NU is opening the 2022 football season in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic at Aviva Stadium in Dublin against Northwestern on Aug. 27, 2022.
The Huskers were supposed to open this coming season across the Atlantic against Illinois, but that game was moved stateside, to Champaign, Illinois, due to continued concerns and uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now it will be a different Big Ten West Division foe that Nebraska opens 2022 against.
"We are excited to reschedule the trip to Ireland for our football program," Husker athletic director Bill Moos said in a prepared statement. "The young men in our program have been looking forward to this trip, and we are happy to provide them with this memorable experience. I know our great Husker fan base will be excited as well and the opportunity to travel to Ireland to see their team compete on an international stage will truly be special."
Moos also thanked Irish American Events "for being a great partner throughout this process the past couple years."
The move requires some schedule rearranging.
Nebraska and Northwestern were originally slated to play Oct. 8, 2022, in Evanston, Illinois. Now, it's a Week 0 game. In addition, the Huskers are set to host FCS North Dakota at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 3.
In fact, Nebraska is scheduled to be home early and often after the trip to Ireland. NU follows the scheduled Sept. 3 date against UND with a Sept. 10 home game against Georgia Southern, a Sept. 17 home game against Oklahoma and then a road trip to Rutgers on Sept. 24 before hosting Indiana on Oct. 1.
The 2022 matchup in Ireland has been in the works essentially since the 2021 game was moved back to the United States in February. As early as late February, when the Journal Star reported that plans were in the works for NU to open 2022 in Ireland against Northwestern, Moos said, “it would be something we’re interested in if the opportunity presents itself.”
"It's an exclusive television window to a broad audience of fans who are hungry for the college football season to start,” Moos added.
The matchup in Dublin will mark Nebraska's first game outside of the United States since a 38-24 win against Kansas State in the 1992 Coca-Cola Bowl in Tokyo.
"The trip to Ireland provides great exposure for the Nebraska football program and a unique experience for our players and Husker fans," NU head coach Scott Frost said. "Our primary focus for the trip will be to play a football game against an outstanding opponent in Northwestern. At the same time, this will be a great cultural opportunity for our young men to visit a part of the world that most of them have not seen."
Nebraska and Northwestern will compete for the Keough-Naughton Trophy that bears the name of two powerhouses of Irish America, Don Keough and Martin Naughton.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin noted the past year has been difficult because of the pandemic.
However, "With our vaccination rollout advancing at pace, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and we can begin to look forward with optimism to welcoming visitors safely back to our shores," Martin said in a prepared statement.
Nebraska clearly is an attractive option for the operators of the Aer Lingus Classic. John Anthony of Anthony Travel told the Journal Star in January 2020 — three months after the original date with Illinois was announced — that Husker fans were powering ticket sales at a record pace.
“We were thrilled with the initial response by fans — it was huge right out of the gate,” Anthony said.
Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland's executive vice president for North America and Australia, said she expects about 23,000 to travel to Dublin for the game and its activities.
At this point, tickets to the game are available through travel or hospitality package. Fans can put down a $250 deposit to secure their ticket and travel package at CollegeFootballIreland.com. Packages are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The game will be organized by Irish American Events.
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