For Iowa, it's Black Friday more than the opponent

Athletics director Gary Barta: 'I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot'

Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., before the 2011 Iowa-Nebraska game. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., before the 2011 Iowa-Nebraska game. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — This week, Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos called the Big Ten and Iowa athletics director Gary Barta to inquire about the possibility of making Iowa the Huskers’ permanent opponent for the Black Friday game.

“I have talked to both the Big Ten and to my counterpart at Iowa about the prospects of really starting to develop a true rivalry between our two schools,” the Huskers athletic director told Nebraska247 on Wednesday. “And especially in football, that game on an annual basis, whether at their place or ours, be on that Friday following Thanksgiving.”

Barta was asked about it on Thursday. The opponent doesn’t matter to him as much as Black Friday. When the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, Iowa jumped into the Black Friday thing. And you know what? Barta and head football coach Kirk Ferentz love it.

Last fall, the Big Ten released schedules for the 2020-21 seasons. Instead of Iowa-Nebraska, the Hawkeyes and Wisconsin will meet during the season’s final week. The Huskers will face Minnesota those two years. Iowa and Nebraska will meet on Black Friday in 2018-19.

“I was very excited when we first came up with the concept, when Nebraska joined the Big Ten, to fill that Friday slot, I was very excited,” Barta said. “I remain today very excited.

“It got changed. For a while, Nebraska said it didn’t want to play on Friday anymore. We still wanted to, both Kirk (Ferentz) and I.”

So now, for Iowa, it’s the Friday. The opponent? Not that big of a deal for Iowa.

“I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot and I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot against a rival opponent,” Barta said. “So, whether it’s Wisconsin or Nebraska, my choice would be to play on that Friday slot of Thanksgiving.”

The attractiveness of having the consistent rivalry game against the same opponent every season? “It builds continuity, it builds tradition,” Barta said. “But if for some reason we can’t get it back, I still want to play on that Friday. It gets a national audience and if it’s against a border rival, I think it’s going to be a great series.”

As it stands now, Iowa and Wisconsin in 2020-21 isn’t a Black Friday game. Talks are ongoing with that, Barta said.

For this switch to happen, the schools have to agree, the Big Ten has to agree, TV will be consulted and then all of the Big Ten ADs have to vote on it.

— A new capacity for Kinnick Stadium has yet to be set. Before the north end zone renovation began in late November, Kinnick held 70,585. That number is expected to decrease.

“I think it’s 69-something, but I don’t have it exactly yet and it won’t be done exactly until all of the seats are in,” Barta said.

— Iowa has hired Kammy Powell as head athletics trainer for football. She held the same position at Minnesota and has worked with the U.S. Army.

— Iowa has sold 1,300 of the 1,600 available club seats for when the north end zone renovation is complete in 2019.

— Kinnick’s north end zone will be in place next season, but club seating won’t be in place until 2019. Also, the north end zone won’t have a videoboard in 2018, but it will have a scoreboard with the clock and score.

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