Fifty years ago, the Oklahoma Sooners and Nebraska Cornhuskers staged the “Game of the Century,” a 35-31 Nebraska victory remembered as the best game in what used to be one of college football’s best rivalries. The two legendary programs are currently scheduled to meet again this fall in Norman to commemorate the anniversary, but the Huskers have reportedly soured on the reunion plans.
According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, NU is making moves to back out of the game in favor of scheduling a different opponent in Lincoln that day.
Nebraska is trying to get out of playing Oklahoma on Sept. 18, sources told @Stadium. The Cornhuskers have contacted other schools to play in Lincoln on that date, sources said. The game was scheduled to mark 50th anniversary of 1971 "Game of the Century" b/w No. 1 NU & No. 2 OU— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) March 12, 2021
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione issued a statement indicating the Sooners still plan on playing the game on Sept. 18. Notably, Castiglione didn’t dispute McMurphy’s report.
In response to inquiries I’ve received this morning...... pic.twitter.com/t7rVYL0NpJ— Joe Castiglione (@soonerad) March 12, 2021
Meanwhile, as Nebraska reporter Mitch Sherman pointed out, the fact that NU hasn’t issued a statement seems telling about the validity of McMurphy’s report.
Assuming the report is true, it suggests the Huskers are trying to line up an FCS opponent to secure a guaranteed win and the gate revenue from a home game. The odds that an FBS-level program – let alone one from a power conference – would have a hole to fill on its schedule this close to the season seem slim.
It makes sense why NU and coach Scott Frost would want a paycheck game – the Huskers haven’t had a winning season since 2016. Unfortunately, the Sooners would be fishing for a new opponent from the same pond. Given that OU already has an FCS opponent in Western Carolina on the 2021 slate, adding a second could diminish the Sooners’ resume if they’re in the hunt for a bid to the College Football Playoff at the end of the season. Castiglione also knows better than anyone how season-ticket holders would react to seeing one of the more appealing matchups in their packages replaced with a second game versus an FCS team.
No matter the outcome, the entire episode reflects poorly on the state of Nebraska football. Even proposing the possibility of bowing out of the game is a sad commentary on the once-proud program. Here’s hoping that the Sooners and Huskers still square off in six months.
UPDATE: Game on. We’ll never know what the Nebraska leadership’s rationale happened to be as they looked for other options, but I don’t think too many are buying what they’re trying to sell in this statement.