Colorado vs. Nebraska, 9/8/18

Nebraska coach Scott Frost and players run out onto the field during the tunnel walk Sept. 8, 2018, at Memorial Stadium.

Just a nice, smooth, uneventful start to the football season, as everyone expected.

The Big Ten Conference will indeed play football this fall, or at least try to, as the conference announced Wednesday morning a modified season beginning in October.

The plan is for the season to begin the weekend of Oct. 23-24, with eight games in an eight-week window and the Big Ten championship game scheduled for Dec. 19. Why Dec. 19? The College Football Playoff is set to release its final rankings Dec. 20.

As for who Nebraska will play, that is yet to be determined. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, the head of the Big Ten's scheduling committee, said on the Big Ten Network Wednesday morning that a schedule would be released later this week.

That schedule will include eight regular-season games, plus an extra game during championship week for each of the league's teams. In addition to the Big Ten championship game, the the second-place team from the West division will play the second-place team from the East division, third place will play third place, and on down the line.

When Nebraska does play a game, it will do so in largely empty stadiums. Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said on BTN no public sale of tickets will be allowed by the conference, but the league will work with each school on a city-by-city basis to allow families of players, coaches, etc., to watch games in person.

For Nebraska, that means an October start to the season for the first time since 1943, when the team opened on Oct. 2 of that year. This will be the latest start to a Husker football season since 1892, when the team known as the Bugeaters started that campaign also started on Oct. 24 against Doane.

But at least it's a start.

“We are very pleased with the decision by the Big Ten to play football this fall after carefully considering the extensive work by the Medical Committee," University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Ronnie Green and Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said in a joint statement. "The safety protocols established by the conference are the most stringent in the country, and will help protect our student-athletes, staff and coaches.

"At Nebraska, we have worked hard since last spring to ensure the safety of our Husker family and are confident of the steps we’ve taken. We look forward to working with the Big Ten protocols and will be ready to play on October 24."

The Big Ten's plan will include daily rapid testing for every person involved with a football program. 

Of course, there were scheduled starts before. 

Back in the old days, the Huskers were scheduled to begin their 12-game 2020 slate with a Sept. 5 home date against Purdue. That was reworked Aug. 5, changed to a 10-game, conference-only schedule beginning Sept. 5 at Rutgers. Six days after that, Aug. 11, the whole thing was scrapped.

And then all hell broke loose.

The day before the shutdown, Aug. 10, Scott Frost and three players — quarterback Adrian Martinez, defensive back Dicaprio Bootle, and offensive lineman Matt Farniok — took part in a news conference during which they passionately stated their case for wanting to play in the fall.

The next day, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren delivered an awkward interview on BTN as he tried, and mostly failed, to explain the rationale behind postponing a season less than a week after releasing that season's schedule.

And that was only the beginning.

The end (maybe) came Tuesday, when University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, in making small talk before the start of a news conference, was caught on a hot microphone saying an announcement on the Husker football season would come Tuesday afternoon or evening.

"We're getting ready to announce the Huskers and Big Ten football tonight," said Carter in a conversation with Bob Hinson, director of the National Strategic Research Institute.

The Journal Star reported Monday night that a decision on the Big Ten season could be revealed as soon as Tuesday

Asked if either UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green or Carter could elaborate on the hot-mic comments, Deb Fiddelke, University of Nebraska-Lincoln's chief communication and marketing officer, said, "When there is any news to share or confirm regarding any Big Ten board decision, it will be announced by the Big Ten. Chancellor Green and AD (Bill) Moos will comment at that time."

Warren, in an Aug. 19 open letter to the Big Ten community, stated that the Aug. 11 vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, "was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited." Warren cited too many medical uncertainties with COVID-19 as well as the amateur status of the student-athletes involved.

The Pac-12 followed the Big Ten's lead in postponing fall sports, although the Big 12, ACC and SEC pushed forward.

All the while, Nebraska and Ohio State have pushed for a season both publicly and privately. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields has been especially vocal, going so far as to launch an online petition, signed by hundreds of thousands, to play this fall.

A lawsuit in Lancaster County District Court brought by eight Nebraska football players was the impetus in revealing the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors indeed voted 11-3 to postpone the football season. Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State were the three schools that voted to play. The lawsuit, as well as pressure from parents from multiple Big Ten programs, added to the heat on the conference, most of it stemming from the desire for more transparency from leadership.

Oh, by the way, the president of the United States also got involved in early September when Donald Trump spoke with Warren by phone about trying to restart the season.

The Nebraska attorney general last week added his name to the list of those seeking transparency. The office of Doug Peterson on Friday issued a letter to the Big Ten notifying Warren that the conference appears to be out of compliance with the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act.

Peterson's letter to Warren states (in part), "In light of recent allegations as to the Big Ten's deliberative process regarding whether to cancel, modify, or postpone the 2020 football season, our office hereby seeks additional information regarding whether the aforementioned deliberations were conducted in accordance with requirements of the Nebraska Nonprofit Corporation Act. …"

Peterson seeks specific information by no later than Sept. 21, including all information, opinions, reports and statements that went into the conference's decisions concerning the 2020 football season.

Peterson's action came shortly after two of the Big Ten's most prominent head coaches — Ryan Day of Ohio State and James Franklin of Penn State — levied harsh criticism on the leadership of Warren.

On the heels of Day's and Franklin's comments came news that Nebraska had acquired 1,200 rapid antigen tests and will be able to regularly test student-athletes in a much faster fashion than the nasal swab, polymerase chain reaction testing currently used. A day later, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department stated it had increased the allowance to 30,000 spectators in outdoor venues.

It all pointed to Nebraska hosting games this fall. The Huskers, led by third-year coach Scott Frost, have been practicing in recent weeks, although NCAA rules limit teams not playing to 12 hours per week of football-related activity, including five hours on the field. The number would rise to 20 hours per week of activity the moment a schedule is announced.

Check back throughout the day for updates to this story.

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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