LINCOLN — Akron is out. An FCS team is in.
Nebraska announced Thursday it will play Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 27 for the 12th game on its schedule, replacing Akron, whose Sept. 1 contest with NU was canceled by thunderstorms.
A member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, BCU is 1-2 with losses to Florida Atlantic and Tennessee State. It has in recent years played games at Miami, FAU, Florida International and North Texas.
But never Nebraska, which will pay Bethune-Cookman $800,000 to come to Lincoln. That’s big money for BCU’s athletic department, NU Athletic Director Bill Moos said, and it’s more than double the $300,000 Iowa State will pay to play Incarnate Word on Dec. 1 after the Cyclones’ Sept. 1 game was also canceled by thunderstorms.
“It wasn’t a piece of cake, and a lot of time went into it, and we had to hold our breath a little bit, but we got our 12th game and fans get their seven,” Moos said Thursday afternoon.
Nebraska would be able to count a win over Bethune-Cookman toward its bowl eligibility because the NCAA allows FBS schools to count one win over an FCS school.
BCU, located in Daytona Beach, Florida, accepted Nebraska’s first financial offer, then submitted a waiver to the NCAA to play a 12th regular-season game. The NCAA approved the waiver Thursday. Nebraska will not issue refunds or exchanges for the Akron game but will instead issue new Bethune-Cookman tickets via email. Anyone who can’t attend the Oct. 27 game will not be refunded the cost of their original ticket, though they can try to resell them through NU’s ticket partner, StubHub, or give them to others. The game will continue Nebraska’s sellout streak, Moos said. A kickoff time will be set at a later date, and the game will be a part of the Big Ten’s regular TV package.
Nebraska has notified Akron of its new plans. The Zips verbally agreed to play NU on Dec. 1 if either school needed the game for bowl eligibility and neither were playing in their respective conference title games.
Now a conversation awaits over just how much of the $1.17 million payout Akron will get. Moos said he’s at least willing to cover Akron’s expenses for making the trip to Lincoln.
“We have to find a number,” Moos said.
Though storms canceled that game, Nebraska hatched a plan to house Akron players in dorm rooms for a Sunday morning kickoff. Akron Athletic Director Larry Williams declined that offer, and the Zips went home.
From there, Moos and his chief of staff, Bob Burton, began looking for a new opponent. Moos said he consulted Dave Brown — a scheduling expert who once worked for ESPN but now has his own firm — for guidance, and Brown came up with a list. Bethune-Cookman was among many programs with a bye date on Oct. 27, Moos said, and NU zeroed in on the Wildcats in the week after canceling the Akron game.
NU’s coaching staff, Moos said, had input on which opponents were more palatable than others. Husker coach Scott Frost wanted to play Oct. 27 over Dec. 1.
“They had their preferences,” Moos said. “There were some teams on the list that had a track record of playing FBS teams and causing havoc.”
With Hurricane Florence canceling a number of Sept. 15 games, Nebraska had to be “generous” with its financial payout to guarantee Bethune-Cookman on the Oct. 27 date.
The Wildcats, in their fourth year under coach Terry Sims, lost 41-13 at Miami and 45-0 at Florida Atlantic last season. This year, Bethune-Cookman has lost to Tennessee State 34-3 and FAU 49-28 and beat Virginia University of Lynchburg 79-16.
‘Final decision’ awaits on Adrian Martinez’s playing status, but he’s ‘really close’
LINCOLN — Adrian Martinez will be among the 74 Nebraska players traveling to Michigan, Scott Frost said Thursday. But that’s all the Huskers are willing to reveal at this point about their second straight week of quarterback uncertainty.
“He’s further along,” Frost said. “Again, it isn’t just ‘Is he ready to go?’ It’s ‘Is he ready to go mentally and physically to the point that he can protect himself in the game and make sure he stays healthy?’
“He’s really close. We gotta make a final decision.”
Martinez, a true freshman, started the season opener against Colorado but suffered a right-knee injury late in the game. Sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch played against Troy while Martinez watched from the sidelines despite warming up. Unlike the workouts leading up to Troy, Martinez practiced every day this week.
Frost offered a few curt responses during his five-minute media availability Thursday.
“Improved play,” he said after being asked what he wants to see from special teams this weekend. “No,” he replied to a question about whether Thursday’s workout was disappointing. Asked specifically about Bunch and punt returner/receiver Tyjon Lindsey improving, he widened the scope to the entire team and said everyone needs to get better.
His longest answer dove into Nebraska’s ongoing cultural transition. The first away game under Frost will offer plenty more teaching moments.
“I remember when I first got here, (NU Athletic Director) Bill Moos talked to me about being on a road trip at the end of last year and getting off the plane and not ever in his life seeing a plane with so much trash left on the plane,” Frost said. “Sounds like it shouldn’t matter. In the game, those things matter because those are little things.
“When guys are attentive to do things right, little things are done right all the time, including in games. So we have a lot of lessons to continue to teach them. I’m sure there are things that’ll come up on the road trip that we’ll have to continue to teach them. But those things take a while and it’s a process. We’ll fix those as they come up. I’m more worried about getting the team as ready as they can be to play this game.”
Other quick hits from Frost on Thursday:
» There are no season-ending injuries to report.
» The 74-man travel roster offers “no challenge” beyond a home game, Frost said, because the team also limits the number of players it takes to the hotel for contests in Lincoln.
» Senior safety Aaron Williams earned his Blackshirt, Frost said. But keeping one is a week-to-week task. “They’re not bought, they’re rented,” he said.
» Frost said there aren’t any easy games looming for Nebraska.
“We’re going to be underdog in quite a few games this year,” Frost said. “I’m not going to tell the guys they’re not as good as the other team. I’m not going to embrace that at all. I just want to go out and play as hard as we can and fight and be better than we were last week regardless of who we’re playing.”