Nebraska to play in Ireland in 2021 season opener
In front of a green backdrop and wearing a tie with shades of green, rather than his usual preferred orange, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman announced Monday the football team will open its 2021 season in Ireland.
The Illini’s first overseas football game will be against Nebraska on Aug. 28, 2021, at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. The “Week Zero” game will take place a week before most college football teams open and replaces a Nov. 13 home game. That will now become an open date for the Illini.
## ## While teams such as men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball and soccer have taken international trips, “historically football has not been able to be included in that,” Whitman said, because of the limited wiggle room with scheduling.
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He said traveling with the men’s basketball team this summer to Italy for an exhibition tour convinced him the trip to Ireland would be worth giving up a home game.
Ireland has played host to six other college football games, including two previous Notre Dame Navy games (1996 and 2012). Boston College Army (1988), Pittsburgh Rutgers (1989), Penn State Central Florida (2014) and Boston College Georgia Tech (2016) also have played there.
“It’s more than a game,” said Dublin Mayor Paul McAuliffe, who wore a ceremonial gold chain for the occasion. “When college football visits Dublin, the whole city gets involved. When an Irish door opens, you get invited to the parlor.”
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Whitman said he began discussions with promoter Irish American Events Limited in 2017. He said they worked on dates and revenue concerns to help Illinois make the scheduling possible.
Whitman said the partnerships will help Illinois avoid losing revenue from giving up a home game. The deal guarantees Illinois $1.25 million and covers nearly all travel expenses, including airfare, hotels, food and ground transportation, according to an Illinois spokesman.