Big Ten nixes Nebraska vs. Chattanooga game

NCAAF

The Big Ten has nixed a proposed deal that would have allowed Nebraska to replace its canceled game Saturday against Wisconsin with a game against FCS foe Chattanooga.

Dr. Jay Blackman, UTC’s senior associate athletics director for strategic communications, confirmed the Big Ten’s decision to ESPN.

“We knew at the beginning of the conversations that it was going to be a long shot,” Blackman told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. “We were trying to do things to get ready. People were excited.”

Nebraska released a joint statement from athletic director Bill Moos and chancellor Ronnie Green, saying: “With the cancellation of the game against Wisconsin, we did explore the possibility of securing a non-conference game for Saturday. The discussions we had were with teams that had already implemented stricter testing protocols than those mandated by the Big Ten Conference. Those details were non-negotiable if we were to bring a non-conference opponent to Lincoln.

“With an already shortened season, we owed it to our student-athletes to explore any possible option to play a game this week.

“Ultimately, the Big Ten Conference did not approve our request, and we respect their decision. We are excited to move forward with preparations for the rest of the season, beginning with next week’s game at Northwestern.”

The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday decided no nonconference opponents can be added when Big Ten games are canceled. The league hasn’t changed its stance on this since the summer.

Nebraska’s scheduled Big Ten game with Wisconsin was canceled after all Wisconsin team-related activities were paused this week because of an increased number of COVID-19 cases within the program.

Nebraska, in trying to find a replacement at the last minute, had put together a deal to face Chattanooga, which lost to Western Kentucky 13-10 last week. It was the Mocs’ only game this fall. The Southern Conference voted to play its season in the spring, and Chattanooga’s next scheduled game is Feb. 20 against VMI.

Chattanooga tested its players and staff members Wednesday, and the results all came back negative, sources told ESPN. Chattanooga conducted another round of tests Thursday morning, and Nebraska was going to test the players and staff members again on Friday in Lincoln when they got off the plane. The plan was for Chattanooga to be tested again on Saturday morning before the game.

Sources told ESPN that Nebraska has agreed to pay for all of Chattanooga’s testing.

“Sure, it’s disappointing,” UTC coach Rusty Wright told ESPN. “When you have an opportunity to go to a place like Nebraska and don’t get to go, it’s disappointing. If they had told us to be there Wednesday night, we would have gone on Wednesday night. I’m just thankful I have an administration that’s open-minded about giving kids a chance to play.”

Nebraska officials notified Chattanooga officials by phone Thursday morning that a Big Ten committee had not approved the game to be played, sources told ESPN.

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