Huskers ‘got our 12th game’
LINCOLN — Akron is out. An FCS team is in.
Nebraska announced Thursday it will play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27 for the 12th game on its schedule, replacing Akron, whose Sept. 1 contest with NU was canceled by thunderstorms.
A member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, BCU is 1-2 this season with losses to Florida Atlantic and Tennessee State. It has in recent years played games at Miami, FAU, Florida International and North Texas.
But never Nebraska, which will pay Bethune-Cookman $800,000 to come to Lincoln. That’s big money for BCU’s athletic department, NU Athletic Director Bill Moos said, and it’s more than double the $300,000 Iowa State will pay to play Incarnate Word on Dec. 1 after the Cyclones’ Sept. 1 game was also canceled by thunderstorms.
“It wasn’t a piece of cake, and a lot of time went into it, and we had to hold our breath a little bit, but we got our 12th game and fans get their seven,” Moos said Thursday afternoon.
Nebraska would be able to count a win over Bethune-Cookman toward its bowl eligibility because the NCAA allows FBS schools to count one win over an FCS school.
BCU, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, accepted Nebraska’s first financial offer, then submitted a waiver to the NCAA to play a 12th regular-season game. The NCAA approved the waiver Thursday. Nebraska will not issue refunds or exchanges for the Akron game but will instead issue new Bethune-Cookman tickets via email. Anyone who can’t attend the Oct. 27 game will not be refunded the cost of their original ticket, though they can try to resell them through NU’s ticket partner, StubHub, or give them to others. The game will continue Nebraska’s sellout streak, Moos said. A kickoff time will be set at a later date, and the game will be a part of the Big Ten’s regular TV package.
Nebraska has notified Akron of its new plans. The Zips verbally agreed to play NU on Dec. 1 if either school needed the game for bowl eligibility and neither were playing in their respective conference title games.
Now a conversation awaits over just how much of the $1.17 million payout Akron will get. Moos said he’s at least willing to cover Akron’s expenses for making the trip to Lincoln.
“We have to find a number,” Moos said.
Though storms canceled that game, Nebraska hatched a plan to house Akron players in dorm rooms for a Sunday morning kickoff. Akron Athletic Director Larry Williams declined that offer, and the Zips went home.
From there, Moos and his chief of staff, Bob Burton, began looking for a new opponent. Moos said he consulted Dave Brown — a scheduling expert who once worked for ESPN but now has his own firm — for guidance, and Brown came up with a list. Bethune-Cookman was among many programs with a bye date on Oct. 27, Moos said, and NU zeroed in on the Wildcats in the week after canceling the Akron game.
NU’s coaching staff, Moos said, had input on which opponents were more palatable than others. Husker coach Scott Frost wanted to play Oct. 27 over Dec. 1.
“They had their preferences,” Moos said. “There were some teams on the list that had a track record of playing FBS teams and causing havoc.”
With Hurricane Florence canceling a number of Sept. 15 games, Nebraska had to be “generous” with its financial payout to guarantee Bethune-Cookman on the Oct. 27 date.
The Wildcats, in their fourth year under coach Terry Sims, lost 41-13 at Miami and 45-0 at Florida Atlantic last season. This year, Bethune-Cookman has lost to Tennessee State 34-3 and FAU 49-28 and beat Virginia University of Lynchburg 79-16.