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Organizer for game in Ireland regards NU as 'beauty of the ball,' challenges fans to travel
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HUSKER FOOTBALL

Organizer for game in Ireland regards NU as 'beauty of the ball,' challenges fans to travel

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Football Facility, 9.27

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos addresses the crowd assembled for the announcement of the Huskers' new football facility Sept. 27 at the East Stadium Plaza.

Bill Moos may not be used to being regarded as "the beauty of the ball."

But that's the way an official representing Irish American Events Limited says he regarded the Nebraska athletic director as the official in 2017 wooed the Huskers for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic series.

Two years ago, John Anthony, as part of the group that helps find teams for the game, attended a meeting of Big Ten athletic directors and other league administrators to pitch the event in five minutes or fewer.

There were probably 50-plus people in the room at the that time, Anthony recalled Tuesday during a news conference on the sixth floor of Memorial Stadium to discuss the Nebraska-Illinois game in 2021 in Dublin, Ireland.

"Even though it was somewhat like this — a large room with 50-plus people — you would've sworn I was a high school kid focused on one girl at the dance, because with 50 people there, I stared at Bill (Moos) the entire time," Anthony said. "I was so locked in on getting Nebraska for this for the first team from the Big Ten. This is a special place, and you were the beauty of the ball for us." 

As was originally announced Monday, Nebraska will take on fellow conference member Illinois in the Aug. 28, 2021, contest at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Irish American Events Limited has put on four other games in Ireland. After a 2016 game pitting Georgia Tech and Boston College, officials in Ireland stepped forward and proposed a five-game series starting in 2020 with Notre Dame and Navy, which have played in Ireland twice previously.

Anthony in 2017 discussed the matter with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who invited him to the meeting of Big Ten athletic directors and other league administrators. Anthony and Moos were on the same page from the start.

Anthony hopes Nebraska and Illinois fans regard the trip as an excellent cultural, educational and business experience.

"And some football, too," he said.

Moos did, in fact, notice Anthony's keen interest in Nebraska during the 2017 meeting.

"I kind of figured that out," Moos told reporters at the Tuesday news conference. "(Athletic director) Josh Whitman at Illinois was really pushing that we would consider it as well. A lot of things had to fall into place, and one was two years ago I had a different football coach."

Mike Riley was in his final year at Nebraska in 2017 before being dismissed at season's end.

"I had to make sure that whoever was going to be coaching (in 2021) was interested in a game like this and an experience like it," Moos said.

Moos said he waited until February 2018 — after the Feb. 7 national signing day — to take the idea to then-new head coach Scott Frost. From there, the conversations escalated quickly. 

Frost said he was immediately interested and excited. He said he's traveled extensively in Europe, but never to Ireland.

"I think in traveling and seeing other things, you don't just have a good time, you learn a lot," the second-year Husker coach said. "I think it's an incredible educational experience. I think our players will benefit from it both from a football standpoint and a personal standpoint. When they laid out all the details of the trip and things our players are going to be able to do, I thought it made a lot of sense.

"I think it's going to be a special week for us to go over there."

Frost said he would like to travel Ireland extensively, mentioning Galway Bay on the West Coast.

"Every single Irish person I've ever met has been one of the most delightful and friendly people I've ever met," Frost said. "So I can't wait for that."

Anthony's company, Anthony Travel, partners with Nebraska athletics for road trips, and Anthony also represents Irish American Events Limited. He said Tuesday that Husker fans set a single-day record for travel-package sales by a large margin. In fact, he challenged the Husker faithful to surpass the 28,000 Notre Dame fans who made the trip to Dublin in 2012 for a 50-10 dismantling of Navy.

Right now fans can only buy travel packages. Tickets separate from the packages won't be sold until a few months out from the game.

"We'll turn that beautiful green country into Husker red," Moos said.

Photos: Huskers going on the (long) road

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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