LINCOLN — Maybe the heat wasn’t on and the beds weren’t made, Athletic Director Bill Moos joked Wednesday, but Nebraska had a plan to house the Akron football team in its dorms Saturday night after thunderstorms canceled the game that evening. The Huskers had lined up a catered meal from a local hotel, too, in advance of a Sunday morning kickoff.
Akron Athletic Director Larry Williams declined the offer. The Zips went home and both teams are left searching for a 12th game. But that might just turn out to be a rain check.
Moos said he and Williams “kind of left it verbally that we’d like to play the game” Dec. 1 so long as Nebraska and Akron don’t qualify for their conference title games.
“That’s a loose end out there,” Moos said in his first public comments since the cancellation. “That’s an option.”
Another option is to schedule an opponent for NU’s Oct. 27 bye week. Moos said his staff is in the early stages of exploring the options — mostly FCS teams — for that day.
So it’s premature, Moos said, to nail down when NU might play its 12th game. Nebraska wants to play one, though, and it wants to play at home.
Moos hasn’t talked to Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, whose team also had a game canceled Saturday night, about a neutral-site contest. But getting a game on the schedule could be important to Nebraska’s postseason goals.
“We do want to be bowl eligible, we do want to extend the season, get the practices and all that that come with preparing for a bowl game,” Moos said.
As Moos spoke, Nebraska sent out an email to ticket holders about reissuing new game tickets should a 12th game arise. Nebraska doesn’t issue refunds — that disclaimer is on the ticket — and only season-ticket holders and single-game buyers through Huskers.com would get reissued tickets. Fans who bought tickets through a third-party vendor would have to contact those vendors for refunds.
NU also hasn’t written any checks to Akron for the $1.17 million payout that isn’t due until March. Moos said Nebraska will “for sure” cover Akron’s expenses, but whether NU pays the full amount may depend on whether Akron and the Huskers end up playing.
“They want to play the game,” Moos said of Akron. “And the (payout) is important, as I understand. To me, that would be the most solid option.”
Moos, a former athletic director at the FCS level, said he’s “sensitive” to Akron’s situation and understands how guaranteed payouts help a smaller program’s budget. When he was at Montana, a game payout from Oregon helped fund several athletic programs.
He’s also sensitive to Nebraska’s reputation among teams the Huskers may want to schedule in the future. Should NU withhold all but expenses from Akron, it’d send a message Moos doesn’t want. But if Nebraska schedules a 12th opponent other than Akron, it would likely also have to pay that team a guarantee.
“Nebraska will do things with class,” Moos said. He offered no firm numbers or timeline on payout negotiations, which would become moot if Nebraska and Akron play.
NU wanted to play Sunday morning, Moos said. Trying to move up the game time Saturday would have been logistically difficult, and Moos said the Huskers had barely finished all of their stadium improvements by game day. Nebraska’s staff did hustle to come up with options for staging the game Sunday morning, and Fox Sports found a broadcast window.
Husker players, who stay in a hotel the night before home games, would have been allowed by coaches to sleep in their own beds.
Akron just had to find its own accommodations. Moos said Williams initially thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but there were no hotel blocks in Omaha or Lincoln big enough to accommodate the team without using multiple locations.
So Nebraska offered its dorms. Roughly a couple of football fields away on campus, one dorm hall, Harper, had two open floors.
“We couldn’t get everybody into one,” Moos said. “It was just not a practical option for them, all things considered.”
Williams told ESPN on Wednesday the dorm option was not “commercially reasonable.”
“Think about it, would Nebraska sleep in the dorms at Michigan?” Williams said to ESPN. He said Akron players were willing to sleep on the floor or bus to play the game, but administrators had a responsibility to look out for their best interest.
As the drama unfolded Saturday night, reporters and fans were relatively in the dark as to the details. Moos didn’t make himself available for interviews after the cancellation came at 10:28 p.m. Should a similar situation arise in the future, Moos said he’ll hold an impromptu press conference in the press box to give updates.
Still, Moos was in a jovial mood Wednesday. Now Nebraska gets to have two “Scott Frost debuts,” including Saturday’s game against Colorado. The thunderstorms Saturday night also forced Husker fans into the concourses, where the food options were too hard to resist.
“We had one of the biggest concession days we ever had,” Moos said. “We were out of everything. There were no Runzas left, no pizza. (Fans) were making the best of it.”