IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa athletics director Gary Barta reiterated his interest in maintaining future Black Friday football and was less concerned about finding a permanent opponent for that traditional regular-season finale.
Iowa has played on Black Friday every fall since 2011, when Nebraska joined the Big Ten and the border foes were paired in the regular-season finale. The Cornhuskers had played on Black Friday every year since 1990, and officials were interested in extending that tradition. Iowa agreed, and they’re scheduled to play on Black Friday through 2019.
Last fall, former Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst and former football coach Mike Riley publicly stated their preference to stop playing on Black Friday. Iowa remained interested in keeping that date. When the Big Ten announced the 2020 and 2021 schedules, league officials switched the Hawkeyes’ season-ending opponent to Wisconsin.
“I was very excited when we came up with the concept, when Nebraska joined the Big Ten to fill that Friday slot,” Barta said Thursday. “I was very excited. I remain today very excited. It got changed. For a while Nebraska said we don’t want to play on Friday anymore. We still wanted to, both Kirk [Ferentz] and I. Then the deck shuffled in the Big Ten. I certainly can’t argue that Wisconsin is another unbelievable border rival as well. So if we ever play Nebraska back in that slot, great. If we ever play Wisconsin in that slot, that’s a heck of a border rivalry as well.
“I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot, and I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot against a rival opponent, so whether it’s Nebraska or Wisconsin, my choice is to play on that Friday slot of Thanksgiving.”
Currently, Iowa’s regular-season finales against Wisconsin are scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Barta and Wisconsin counterpart Barry Alvarez have had “surface discussions” about moving the game to Black Friday. It would take both schools and Big Ten officials agreeing to the move plus a full vote from all the league’s athletics directors.
Last fall, Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner told Land of 10 the league would like to see games on Black Friday.
“If anybody’s playing on that last week and would like to move their game from Saturday to Friday, we’d take it to the athletic directors and make a recommendation,” Rudner said. “I think it’s fertile territory if somebody wants to play there.”
Eichorst’s replacement, Bill Moos, has spent the last few months trying to undo some of his predecessor’s missteps. Among them is to reclaim Black Friday and move the Hawkeyes back to that date as the Huskers’ season-ending opponent.
“I have talked to both the Big Ten and to my counterpart at Iowa about the prospects of really starting to develop a true rivalry between our two schools,” Moos told Nebraska247 on Wednesday. “And especially in football, that game on an annual basis, whether at their place or ours, be on that Friday following Thanksgiving.”
Any change is unlikely to the 2020 or 2021 football schedule. Whether Nebraska returns to Iowa’s schedule as the Black Friday opponent in 2022 remains to be seen.
Either way, Barta is emphatic that the Hawkeyes play on Black Friday. He likes the idea of a specific opponent — such as Nebraska — but the date is more important.
“What I like about it [a regular opponent] is it builds continuity,” Barta said. “It builds tradition. But, again, if for some other reason we can’t get it back, then I still want to play on that Friday. I think that day is a really good day. It gets a national audience and if it’s against a border rival, I think it’s going to be a great series.”