After originally speaking out in support of Nebraska football ending a tradition of playing its regular-season finale on Black Friday, athletic director Shawn Eichorst has changed his tune.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Eichorst said that “no final decision has been made on what dates these two games [2020 and 2021 vs. Minnesota] will actually be played.”
As Nebraska’s football practice ended Thursday afternoon, Eichorst expanded on that statement. Meeting with the media before coach Mike Riley’s usual time slot, Eichorst admitted that he makes mistakes from time to time, saying that his mistake in this matter was “not being clear” earlier in the week.
Eichorst also said he did hear Huskers fans loud and clear.
“Our fans are terrific and passionate. It certainly did matter,” Eichorst said. “At the end of the day, I think that what I hopefully bring to the table is someone who is willing to listen and do the right thing. I think that’s where we are today.”
Eichorst elaborated on the situation.
“To clarify my position on that, my job and [coach Mike Riley’s] job is to do everything we possibly can to prepare our coaches and our players to do everything we can to win a championship,” he said. “When you look at it and look at the normal six-day rest, recovery, prep and routine associated with that, and then you shift to a five-day situation, that’s different.
“As you look at our history and tradition and what we do relative to playing the Friday after Thanksgiving, that’s important as well. I’m not going to visit anymore about the student piece of it because I think that common sense would suggest there is a routine associated with playing football, and coaches’ routines are usually six days, rest, recovery and prep and all those other sorts of things.
“But this unique tradition that we have suggests that we go on five days’ prep and rest, and I’m with Mike. We’re ready to play any day of the week and we’re going to go play the game and hopefully win.”
Nebraska’s season-ending Friday games will have dated back 30 years by the 2020 season. Those dates originally had been a combination of Thanksgiving Thursday or Saturday games to end the season, but that changed in 1990.
The Huskers have played Iowa on Black Friday since 2011, but the Big Ten’s new schedule moved the game against the Hawkeyes earlier in the season starting in 2020. Instead, the Huskers will finish with Minnesota.
Eichorst acknowledged this history on Thursday. He also said he got on the phone almost immediately with Minnesota’s athletic director to see what could be done.
“The schedule came out that the game would be played on Saturday in 2020 against Minnesota, and as in years past we’ve had an opportunity to adjust those games to Friday,” Eichorst said. “So what I suggested was that, as soon as that schedule came out, I got on the phone with Minnesota and said, ‘What’s your interest here?’ ”
As of now, the Gophers seem open to discussing playing on Black Friday. However, it may still be too early to tell, according to Eichorst.