ROSEMONT, Ill. — Shawn Eichorst paved paradise and put up a parking lot. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone, as the old Joni Mitchell song goes, so one of the first things Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos did once he had Gary Barta’s ear was to bend it about getting Black Friday back.
“We were at a meeting at the time, and at one of the meetings, he just pulled me aside and asked where I stood and where [football coach] Kirk [Ferentz] stood,” Barta, Iowa’s athletic director, recalled after the first day of the Big Ten’s spring meetings wrapped up early Monday evening.
“And we said we always like, and still like, that Friday matchup. We love playing Nebraska in that series.
“So who knows? No updates. It isn’t done, but it’s something that Kirk and I remain interested in.”
Barta appeared to backpedal slightly from the comments Ferentz made at a youth camp in Johnston, Iowa, earlier this month. There, Ferentz told Land of 10 and assembled media that “it sounds like we’re going to rekindle” the Heroes Game on the day after Thanksgiving, possibly as soon as 2022.
The Black Friday showdown between the Big Ten West rivals has been a November staple since the Cornhuskers began playing in the Big Ten in 2011. But Eichorst, Moos’ predecessor, and then-Big Red football coach Mike Riley last September railed publicly against playing on Black Friday, much to the chagrin of Huskers fans. League schedules then revealed that the Nebraska-Iowa series had been moved to earlier in the league calendar in 2020 and ’21.
Nebraska will wrap up its regular season against Minnesota those two seasons, while Iowa will do the same with Wisconsin.
Barta said Monday that while he and Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez have floated moving those two games to Black Friday, there’s “no announcement or change” as of now, “and we haven’t had any movement or conversations about that.”
Black Friday has been a Nebraska football tradition since 1990, and a showcase game for Nebraska’s rivalries with Oklahoma, Colorado, and now the Hawkeyes. Iowa and Nebraska will continue playing on that date through the fall of 2019, and Barta, if he has his druthers, isn’t looking to give it up anytime soon.
“Kirk and I have held the position all along that we really like that Friday game,” he continued. “We love the rivalry against Nebraska.”
Moos and Barta have known each other professionally several decades, going back to the days when they used to run into each other at Pac-12 meetings. Barta was senior associate athletic director at Washington from 1996-2003. Moos was the athletic director at Oregon from 1995-2007.
While they’re both former football guys — Moos played at Washington State, Barta at North Dakota State — their public personas are a contrast in styles. The avuncular Moos has been firing up Huskers fans since he replaced Eichorst last October, whether by hiring favorite son Scott Frost or by poking league powers Ohio State and Michigan with a sharp stick.
Barta is a more careful, deliberate beast when the microphones are turned on, although Iowa radio play-by-play man Gary Dolphin raised eyebrows on both sides of the Missouri River recently when he jabbed Nebraska’s football program during a recent appearance just outside of Omaha.
“I heard about that,” Barta said with a grin.
“That’s never been my style to create bulletin board material. So all I know is when we play Nebraska, it’s going to be a dogfight. So we’ll continue to assume that’s the case, and just keep moving forward. They’re a great program, and Bill’s going to do a great job there.”