Bill Moos is holding out hope that some Nebraska fans might be able to attend Husker baseball and softball games this spring but hasn’t heard anything from the Big Ten so far that makes him overly confident.
The Nebraska athletic director said Friday that he and several other schools in the conference continue to push for more localized control over allowing some fans into contests, but the Big Ten retains the final say.
“I continue to emphasize within the Big Ten that these decisions should be made locally, with local health officials determining crowd size, but that did not work last year,” Moos told the Journal Star. “I continue to push for that as we get even later into baseball and softball and such. …
“I want to see some relief on fan attendance so that our great fans can come watch us. They’re starved. I’m just hopeful that baseball and softball in particular, and I’d love it in volleyball as well.”
In Lancaster County, the COVID-19 risk dial moved from orange to yellow on Tuesday for the first time since August. Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez said this week that change will come with some cautious loosening of restrictions about group sizes and capacity limits. The NSAA, for example, said it will be allowing 75% capacity for subdistrict and district postseason competition in winter sports.
Big Ten members, though, can’t flout the conference guidelines and there is no firm timeline as to when restrictions may loosen.
“The conversation is occurring and has been brought up by more schools than just Nebraska,” Moos said. “There has not been a hard stance on when we could get some relief in that regard. We now meet for a couple of hours through Zoom on Wednesday mornings, and that topic is consistently on the agenda.”
Vaccination plans: Moos also said the league’s athletic directors have talked about what vaccination plans look like, although college athletes in general are in a very low-risk category and likely are still a long way off from being eligible for vaccines in most places.
“The only discussion as a conference has been that we shouldn’t — and I endorse this — we shouldn’t hold some campuses back and some departments back from vaccinations just because not everybody can get them,” Moos said. “That would be ludicrous. Once they’re available, whichever campus, they should be able to access.”
Cost of COVID-19 testing: Since Nebraska’s football program began testing athletes last summer, Moos said the school’s total COVID-19 testing regimen so far has come with a $4.5 million price tag.
The vast majority of that has been the conference’s daily testing protocols for in-season sports — about $4 million, Moos said — which the league pays for but deducts from the per-school payout.
The rest of the cost has come from testing done through the school’s local partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The Big Ten’s daily testing protocol went into place Sept. 30 and if all schools have tested as much as Nebraska, that would put the leaguewide price tag of the rapid testing regimen at upward of $55 million over 4½ months.
Moos said 28% of all student-athletes in the Big Ten have tested positive for COVID-19, meaning somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500-3,000.
Latest on Ireland: Moos said he, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman and Anthony Travel President John Anthony have not talked recently about the status of NU and UI’s scheduled Aug. 28 game in Dublin, but that the next conversation could happen “any time now.”
Single-game tickets were originally slated to go on sale next Monday, but Moos said his understanding is that’s now in “wait and see” mode, another indication that the game is unlikely to happen overseas.
One note: If the game is played stateside, the programs will need an NCAA waiver to play the game Week 0 in Champaign, Illinois. Moos, though, said that’s what he’d prefer, especially since the Huskers filled in the original game date (Nov. 13), with a home game against Southeastern Louisiana.
“I’m hopeful and somewhat confident that if we don’t go to Ireland, that we’d still play Week 0,” he said.
Facility groundbreaking in late spring: After the NU Regents in December approved a plan to split the proposed $155 million football training facility and North Stadium project into two phases, Moos on Friday said he thinks the groundbreaking is “going to be late spring. I’m guessing May or June.”
Looking out on a snowy, zero-degree day from his office toward the future build site, Moos said, “I’m just going to tell you, I’ll go out in the bitter cold and put the shovel in the ground myself.”
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