FARGO — The Big Ten Conference shutdown of fall football because of the COVID-19 pandemic didn't please everybody in the league. The University of Nebraska made it known, if not adamantly, that it still wants to play.
So does North Dakota State and the Bison have contacted the Cornhuskers about playing a nonconference game in Lincoln, Neb., NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen confirmed. It's not often NDSU reveals who it is targeting for an FBS game.
The Cornhuskers were originally scheduled to host South Dakota State on Sept. 19, but that game was scratched when the Big Ten announced in early July it was going to league games only. The Jackrabbits were slated to get a $515,000 guarantee.
NDSU's guarantee game at the University of Oregon for the Sept. 5 opener was also canceled when the Pac-12 Conference went to league games only. This week, both the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed football altogether to the spring.
Among those with Nebraska ties pushing for something this fall include head coach Scott Frost, athletic director Bill Moos and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, who wrote an open letter on why football should be played this fall.
"I think the only reason we would look at any other options is if for some reason the Big Ten wasn't playing and only a handful of teams from the Big Ten wanted to continue playing," Frost said on a Zoom call with reporters, on ESPN.com. "I think if that's the case, I think we're prepared to look at any and all options."
NDSU's Missouri Valley Football Conference moved its league games to the spring, but left open the possibility of conference members to play nonconference games. The Bison remain in fall camp mode and have practiced every day since the Valley's announcement.
Valley members Missouri State and Southern Illinois also are practicing with MSU's game at Oklahoma and SIU's game at Kansas still on. SIU is still scheduled to face Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference, which hasn't postponed football.
The Bison game-at-Nebraska intrigue was a popular hit on social media on Tuesday, most notably when former Bison player Christian Dudzik, an Omaha, Neb., native, tweeted out a "Now is the time" post in reference to NDSU vs. Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers aren't going down without a fight. Frost, Moos, Chancellor Ronnie Green and university President Ted Carter released a statement saying, "We are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten Conference.
"Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student-athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics. We will continue to consult with medical experts and evaluate the situation as it emerges. We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete."
NDSU says it will compete.