Nebraska, Illinois will no longer open 2021 college football season in Ireland

Sam Cooper
·2 min read

There will be no college football played in Ireland in 2021.

Nebraska and Illinois were scheduled to square off on Aug. 28 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin as part of the Aer Lingus College Football Series. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the game instead will take place in Champaign at Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. The schools said the decision was made following “extensive consultation” with the Irish government, medical authorities and administrative staff of both universities.

“We are disappointed that we will not be able to travel to Ireland to open the 2021 football season in Dublin. The trip would have been a memorable experience for the young men in our football program, so I feel badly they won’t have this opportunity,” said Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos.

Added Illinois AD Josh Whitman: “This is very disappointing for our athletic program, our team and for the fans who were planning to attend the game in Dublin. For our players, staff and fans, this would have been a one-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Moos and Whitman both said in statements that they hope to bring their respective football programs to Ireland in the future.

Penn State Nittany Lions and UCF Knights during the Croke Park Classic College Football match in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Aug. 30,2014. University of Central Florida hosted Penn State in their 2014 football Season Opener Saturday. This big season opener for UCF and Penn State is the first time that they have played outside the United States.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Penn State and UCF played Dublin, Ireland, in August 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Neil Naughton, the chairman of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, said that “public health must take precedent” over the chance to host a game in 2021. Like Moos and Whitman, Naughton expressed a desire to host a Nebraska-Illinois game in the future.

"These games offer huge publicity potential, practical economic benefits, and a genuine expression of the close ties between Ireland and the United States,” Naughton said. “We have made great friends with both the University of Illinois and the University of Nebraska and I look forward to welcoming them back to Ireland in the not too distant future and giving their traveling fans the welcome Ireland is so famous for.”

The trip to Ireland was slated to be Illinois’ first international football game. Nebraska most recently played internationally in 1992 against Kansas State in Tokyo, Japan.

Ireland, though, has not been a stranger to college football. The first edition of the Aer Lingus series (a planned five-part series) occurred in 2016 when Georgia Tech defeated Boston College. Navy and Notre Dame were scheduled to play their game on Aug. 29, 2020 in Dublin, but that trip was also called off because of the pandemic.

Before the Georgia Tech vs. Boston College game in 2016, there were five college football games played in Ireland. Two of them, in 1996 and 2012, were Notre Dame wins over Navy. The other three games were Boston College’s 38-24 win over Army in 1998, Pittsburgh’s 46-29 win over Rutgers in 1989 and Penn State’s 26-24 win over UCF in 2014.

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