Nebraska fans have an extra home game to look forward to in September.
The Huskers finalized a schedule shift that’s been in the works for several weeks, replacing a Nov. 13 home game against FCS Southeastern Louisiana with a Sept. 4 home game against a different FCS foe, Fordham.
The school announced the move on Monday. Nebraska is paying Fordham a $500,000 guarantee, according to a copy of the game contract obtained by the Journal Star.
The wheels for the plan churned into motion when Nebraska’s “Week Zero” opener against Illinois on Aug. 28 was moved from Dublin, Ireland, to Champaign, Illinois, due to continued uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the ability to take a large group on a trans-Atlantic trip this summer.
NU’s previous schedule included just one home game — Sept. 11 against Buffalo — in the first four weeks of the college football season, which head coach Scott Frost said put his fourth-year program at a disadvantage both competitively and on the recruiting front.
Once the Illinois game was moved stateside, NU decided it didn't want to have the next weekend off.
“We have been actively exploring opportunities to play a home game on Sept. 4 since our Ireland trip to play Illinois was canceled,” Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. “It was important for several reasons to add a September home game. It provides a better flow to the start of our season for our team, and gives us a valuable early season showcase for recruits. This will also provide our fans and local businesses with a home game on the traditional season-opening weekend.
“We are appreciative of the flexibility of both Fordham and Southeastern Louisiana to make this schedule change possible late in the process.”
The unique beginning of the season is also what Frost says prompted Nebraska officials to consider backing out of a slated trip to Oklahoma on Sept. 18, a move that was reported and incurred significant backlash before the school made it clear it would keep the Sooners on the schedule.
"I’m certainly excited about any chance to have more home games early in the season," Frost said on March 29. "For us, in the situation we’re in, to only play one home game before October doesn’t make a lot of sense. "So we’re excited to play (Oklahoma).
"I hope that we can do something with the schedule to make sure our fans can get in and see us sooner and more often."
They did, and now the Huskers will play eight straight weeks and then will have two bye weeks down the stretch. The first portion of the schedule looks like this:
Aug. 28: at Illinois
Sept. 4: vs. Fordham
Sept. 11: vs. Buffalo
Sept. 18: at Oklahoma
Sept. 25: at Michigan State
Oct. 2: vs. Northwestern
Oct. 9: vs. Michigan
Oct. 16: at Minnesota
Then, Nebraska has a pair of bye weeks over the span of four Saturdays. The first is the program's originally scheduled off week and the second is where NU was going to host Southeastern Louisiana.
The rest of the 2021 slate looks like this:
Oct. 23: Bye
Oct. 30: vs. Purdue
Nov. 6: vs. Ohio State
Nov. 13: Bye
Nov. 20: at Wisconsin
Nov. 26: vs. Iowa
Fordham is a member of the Patriot League and played just three games in 2020. The Huskers and Rams have never played each other before.
With the schedule now finalized, Nebraska said football season ticket holders will receive renewal information this week.
Nebraska's contract with Southeastern Louisiana called for a $600,000 guarantee and has that sum set as the buyout as well. However, NU's news release said the school will explore rescheduling its slated Nov. 13 game with the FCS program to a later date.
"This will be a tremendous opportunity for the team," Fordham coach Joe Conlin said in a statement. "Playing a game at an FBS power five school, especially one as steeped in tradition as Nebraska, will be an experience that the team will remember for years."
Fordham has not played a Big Ten team since 1941.