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B1G Thwarts Nebraska's Plan for Non-Conference Game

Paul Steinbach

The Big Ten Conference's Council of Presidents/Chancellors in a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday decided no non-conference opponents can be added when Big Ten football games are canceled, maintaining a stance it has held since summer, and ending any hopes the University of Nebraska had to play the University of Tennessee Chattanooga on Saturday in place of a game canceled by Wisconsin.

The Badgers opted to not travel to Lincoln in the wake of a COVID-19 surge that put six players and six staff members into isolation.

Related: B1G Policy Questions in Wake of Wisconsin Cancellation

As reported by ESPN, 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."

Nebraska, which backed off its pursuit of a rogue schedule this summer after the Big Ten initially decided to cancel fall football, put together a deal this week to face Chattanooga, which lost to Western Kentucky 13-10 in the Mocs' only game this fall. The FCS Southern Conference voted to play its season in the spring, and Chattanooga's next scheduled game is Feb. 20.

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.

"We knew at the beginning of the conversations that it was going to be a long shot," Dr. Jay Blackman, UTC's senior associate athletics director for strategic communications, told ESPN. "We were trying to do things to get ready. People were excited."

"When you have an opportunity to go to a place like Nebraska and don't get to go, it's disappointing," UTC coach Rusty Wright told ESPN. "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."

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