IOWA CITY – Iowa’s recent tradition of finishing the Big Ten football season with a Black Friday game against Nebraska is coming to an end.
The Big Ten unveiled conference schedules for 2020 and 2021 seasons on Tuesday and the Hawkeyes will face another border rival, Wisconsin, to finish off the regular season.
“It’s not a divorce, it’s a rotation,’’ Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta said, pointing out that the Hawkeyes will continue to play the Cornhuskers annually as West Division rivals but on dates earlier in the season.
While Iowa will play the Badgers, Nebraska will conclude its season in 2020 and 2021 with games against Minnesota.
Barta said Iowa had no input on the change in the series with the Cornhuskers, which has seen the teams meet annually on the day after Thanksgiving since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011.
“We’re glad to still be concluding the regular season with a game against a border rival in a trophy game,’’ Barta said. “This is all part of a rotation.’’
Iowa played Minnesota in its regular-season finale for a number of years, but did conclude conference play with games against Wisconsin during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Barta said he is open to discussing the possibility of continuing to play on Black Friday against the Badgers if Wisconsin, the Big Ten and the league’s television partners are interested.
“The feedback we’ve received over the years from fans about the Friday game goes both ways,’’ Barta said. “Some people really like it and others find it difficult because of family commitments on Thanksgiving.’’
Although never a fan of extending the regular season into Thanksgiving week, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz likes the Black Friday game because it provides players with time to spend with family after the game is played.
“Guys can walk out of here Friday before 6 p.m., the ones that live locally get to go home and maybe eat some turkey with their family,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ll take them as they come.’’
Ferentz is less enamored with changes that include more frequent early-season Big Ten games.
Iowa, which already had a Sept. 7 game on its 2019 schedule against Rutgers, will play Minnesota on the third week of the season in 2020 and will open the 2021 season with a home game against Indiana.
“It’s all a sign of the times,’’ Ferentz said. “There are powers that are way higher than my level that decide all this stuff. Even if they did talk to me about it, they wouldn’t listen.’’
Three Big Ten games will be played on the opening weekend of the 2020 season and the Hoosiers’ visit to Kinnick Stadium the following year is one of four opening-weekend conference games that season.
It will be Iowa’s first Big Ten game to open a season since 1980, although the Hawkeyes opened conference play annually on the opening week of the season annually from 1971-80.