Nebraska came close to adding a replacement game with Chattanooga for Saturday after the Cornhuskers' game with Wisconsin was canceled, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. But the Big Ten scuttled Nebraska's effort to deviate from the league's conference-only schedule, according to multiple reports and confirmed by CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.
The attempt by Nebraska to get a game with Chattanooga on the schedule comes after its contest with Wisconsin was declared a no contest as the Badgers deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. It's just the latest example of the Cornhuskers' willingness to buck the Big Ten establishment when it comes to football scheduling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were in talks," Chattanooga AD Mark Wharton told Dodd. "There were many levels of approval through the Big Ten. We lost on the final approval."
Wharton said there was no specific reason for the game being turned down by the Big Ten. Wharton added his school had no direct conversation with the Big Ten, rather communications were with Nebraska. The Big Ten did not respond to a request for comment.
"All I can do is speculate that they set all their Big Ten schedules with no byes and didn't have a contingency plan if they lost games. Nebraska wanted to have a Plan B. It just so happened so we played last week we had testing protocols in place that we had that opportunity to have that conversation."
Chattanooga has been testing three times a week. It had zero positives as of Wednesday. Nebraska had agreed to pay Chattanooga a guarantee in the $200,000-$250,000 range.
"Most of the question is if the Big Ten has more of these time of things with Wisconsin, how are they going to play enough games," Wharton said.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost suggested in August that Nebraska would be willing to look outside the Big Ten to compile a football schedule if the league voted to postpone or cancel its fall season. When the Big Ten did vote to postpone the fall season, university leadership was publicly critical of the decision. Ultimately, the league changed course and opted to begin its season last weekend in a nine-week, conference-only format.
But adding Chattanooga would have been a deviation from that agreed-upon structure.
Chattanooga is an FCS program expected to play a full Southern Conference schedule this spring. But Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright made it clear in August that his program would play anyone this fall. The Mocs lost 13-10 to Western Kentucky last week. The Times Free Press reported that Chattanooga would have received a payday "in the neighborhood" of $200,000 to $250,000 from Nebraska if the game had been played.