LINCOLN — Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and coach Mike Riley seemed clear Tuesday that the Huskers were going to end their tradition of playing Black Friday games by 2020 in exchange for a full week of preparation and more rest for the players.
Forty-eight hours later, Eichorst said he wasn’t clear in a statement he made to NU’s creative content specialist. Instead, the Huskers will try to continue the Black Friday games with Minnesota, which becomes the new end-of-regular season opponent in 2020. Until then, the Huskers play Iowa three times, each game the day after Thanksgiving.
Eichorst said he has already been on the phone with UM’s administration to do so, but declined to elaborate on the progress of those plans.
He said he needed to “clarify” his statement from Tuesday.
“I will let you know I do make mistakes, and I’m not perfect,” Eichorst said on the field at Memorial Stadium.
He balked at the suggestion that because of fan feedback — Eichorst called them “constituents” — he changed his mind.
So what was his mistake?
“Not being clear on Tuesday about, really, the fact of the matter,” Eichorst said. “We’ve had schedules come in the past on Saturday (being the date of the final regular season game), and we’ve had discussions with Iowa in particular about moving those games to Friday. That’s fully on me. I take full accountability for not being clear relative to comments that came out on Tuesday.”
The Tuesday statement — in which Eichorst told Huskers.commoving the final regular season game to Saturday “makes sense from a student-athlete health, safety and welfare perspective” — appeared to indicate NU was embracing the switch.
Riley certainly embraced it, in both the Huskers.com article and an interview with The World-Herald.
“These kids are busy enough, and then you cram a game into a short week, and when you get to that time of the year, as you go, the physical recovery and doing the right thing for them, I’m not sure,” Riley said Tuesday. “I know they do it in pro football once in a while, but these guys aren’t pros.”
Riley chuckled briefly when asked about the developments in the last 48 hours.
“I’ve coached in the Canadian Football League on three days rest,” Riley said. “This is not new to me. We know how to do this. But if you polled 99 percent of football people across the country, they would rather not play on a short week. That’s a fact.
“Nobody in coaching — from junior high to NFL — is going to say, ‘Yeah, give me a short week this week, that’ll be good,’ but we’ll be ready. And it’ll be fine. It’s not that big of a deal, OK?”
Eichorst reinforced that a five-day rest/recovery/prep period would be harder on athletes than a six-day prep.
“If you look at our tradition, relative to what we do playing the Friday after Thanksgiving, that’s important as well,” Eichorst said.
Eichorst said he didn’t know when the Big Ten first approached him about rotating the final opponent of the regular season between Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“Folks will continue to monitor,” Eichorst said.
Eichorst said he received feedback from fans and “it certainly did matter.”
“At end of the day, what I hopefully I bring to the table is someone who will listen and do the right thing,” Eichorst said.
He also touted efforts he’s made to embrace and honor tradition at Nebraska, including a statue of Bob Devaney, the Athletics Hall of Fame plaza, retiring the College Football Hall of Fame jerseys, having a “fully-functioning letterwinner’s club in house” and “opening our doors to former players and making them a part of everything we’re doing.”
And when it comes to balancing the need to cooperate with the Big Ten against the interests of Nebraska, Eichorst said he’s squarely in the corner of the Huskers.
“My job and my allegiance is to Nebraska,” Eichorst said, noting his work on the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee, which altered recruiting rules that many believe help schools like NU. “Those of you who have followed me the last number of years, I’m going to make sure Nebraska is put forward but, in the end, there at times needs to be some compromise.”
Northern Illinois at Nebraska
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
Radio: 103.1 FM