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Nebraska athletics proposing bold moves including $300 million multimedia deal

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Nebraska's athletic department has been busy making changes inside the football program — and is now making bold moves off the field, too. 

With three different proposals set for vote at Nebraska's Sept. 30 Board of Regents meeting, NU intends to sign a 15-year, $300-million deal that starts Oct. 1, begin serving alcohol at Nebraska men's and women's basketball games, and engage a program management service as it begins perhaps the largest project of all: Overhauling Memorial Stadium. 

The multimedia deal, made with PlayFly Sports, includes $273.6 million in guaranteed payments over the life of the contract, which runs through June 2038. The deal also includes $2.25 million in an NIL fund, which PlayFly can distribute to Husker athletes through brand sponsorships or, in theory, appearances on NU-related shows. When Nebraska took, for 14 months, its multimedia services in-house, it could not, by NCAA rule, supply athletes with NIL monies. PlayFly, founded by former Comcast executive Michael Schreiber, is a third-party administrator of NU's media rights. 

"When you think about it as a college administrator, we are finding a whole new leg to the stool that we never had before," Schreiber said on the Athletic Director U podcast this summer. 

Based in suburban Philadelphia, PlayFly — which sells ads for the Pac-12 Networks — has recently signed deals with Michigan State, Central Florida, East Carolina, Wichita State and Villanova. Nebraska is PlayFly's first big whale in the multimedia rights market. 

Pinnacle Bank Arena will be the first venue where Nebraska athletics effectively tests, for a two-year period, alcohol sales at NU sporting events. The city of Lincoln, which owns PBA, will keep a proposed 90% of booze revenue, while NU keeps 10%. PBA successfully served alcohol without known incident at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships this spring. Haymarket Park, Devaney Sports Center and Memorial Stadium are not part of the alcohol proposal, nor are any other NU facilities. 

Memorial Stadium likely lacks the current infrastructure to easily manage volume alcohol sales, and it's one item NU has considered in its yearlong examination of the stadium's strengths and weaknesses. Husker Athletic Director Trev Alberts commissioned a survey, filled out by thousands, to help guide what comes next: A step-by-step process to reimagine the stadium and the creation of a fundraising plan — mostly through private donors — that fits the vision. NU's proposal to the BOR gives Nebraska a chance begin the planning process. 

"The complexity and magnitude of this project requires the coordination of many moving parts, including fundraising, programming, design and construction," the proposal reads. "Due to the success of the University’s deferred maintenance program and the multitude of capital projects system­wide, a project of this size would put strain on an already busy University facilities team. Therefore, Nebraska Athletics recommends the engagement of a third party to provide Program Management Services through a qualification-based selection process, selected by an internal evaluation team comprised of members of Nebraska Athletics, UNL, and Office of the President.

The program manager would then act in NU's interest. 

While Alberts has been broad in unpacking his vision for the stadium, NU's fan survey indicated interest in more comfortable seats and alcohol sales, among other items. NU's capacity would likely go down and the south end zone may be reconfigured as a more premium experience than the biggest, widest swath of the red sea. 

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