Nebraska reached out to Old Dominion and New Mexico State for a Sept. 18 college football game that would have replaced a showdown against Oklahoma -- one of the showcase games of the 2021 season -- from the Cornhuskers' schedule, sources told CBS Sports.
However, the Cornhuskers reaffirmed their commitment to playing the Sooners this season in a statement released hours after reports of their attempts to exit the game surfaced.
"The University of Nebraska is looking forward to playing Oklahoma in Norman on September 18th," Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement Friday afternoon. "Due to the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to Husker athletics and the local community, our administration did explore the possibility of adding an eighth game this fall. That option would have helped us mitigate cost-cutting measures and provide a much-needed boost to our economy. Ultimately, the decision was made to move forward with our game at Oklahoma in 2021."
Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione released a statement earlier Friday afternoon stating that the Sooners never swayed from playing the game. "The Oklahoma-Nebraska football series represents one of the most unique traditional rivalries in college football," he said in a statement. "… We fully intend and expect to play the game as it is scheduled."
The renewal of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry has been anticipated since Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten in 2010. The game scheduled for Sept. 18 at Oklahoma has been hyped as the 50th anniversary of the legendary Game of the Century between the two teams in 1971. The programs are also scheduled to play in 2022 at Nebraska.
McMurphy first reported that Nebraska was "trying to get out of playing" the Oklahoma game, adding that Old Dominion and other MAC programs had been contacted by Nebraska.
"Nebraska has reached out to [Old Dominion], but it's unclear whether they're going to be able to extract themselves from the Oklahoma game," a source involved with college football scheduling originally told CBS Sports. "They have reached out to ODU."
"I think [Nebraska has] been calling around," a high-ranking MAC source told CBS Sports.
Despite Nebraska's statement, it's not clear why the Cornhuskers were efforting such a scheduling switch so close to the start of the season. It would have been highly irregular to cancel a game contract six months before kickoff.
This particular contract was agreed to by Castiglione and former Nebraska AD Tom Osborne in 2012.
"[This is] incredibly late. These schedules have cement built around them," said a person involved in the college football scheduling process.
Old Dominion has a Sept. 18 game scheduled against Liberty.
The reported effort by Nebraska drew criticism Friday. Nebraska coach Scott Frost famously said a year ago that his program preferred to play even if the Big Ten canceled its 2020 season.
"There's definitely a lot of internal commotion at Nebraska right now," the initial source said.
Spokespersons at Old Dominion and Nebraska did not immediately return calls for comment.
It was the longstanding relationship between Nebraska and Oklahoma schools that brought back a renewal of the rivalry in the first place. Oklahoma (50) and Nebraska (46) have won more combined conference titles than any pair of schools. Osborne and Barry Switzer played against each other 17 times from 1973-88. Oklahoma won 12 of those meetings.