Iowa-Nebraska to be played day after Thanksgiving

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Many thought that Nebraska’s years-long tradition of playing the day after Thanksgiving would fall by the wayside once the school moved to the Big Ten this year.

For at least a couple of years, however, that tradition will continue.

According to a press release issued by the schools, the Iowa-Nebraska games the next two seasons will be played on the Friday immediately following Turkey Day. The 2011 game in Lincoln will be played on Nov. 25, while the 2012 game in Iowa City will be played Nov. 23.

“Iowa playing Nebraska on any given weekend is a great match-up between two historic football programs,” said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta. “Having the game on Thanksgiving Friday will add to the excitement and the potential for a strong national television audience.”

“I think our fans have enjoyed the tradition of playing on the day after Thanksgiving, and we are pleased the Big Ten Conference has allowed us to continue to do so,” Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said. “The University of Iowa is a natural opponent to play on that day, and we look forward to great matchups between the two schools for years to come.”

The release went on to state that the change in dates was recently approved by the Big Ten Conference Administrator’s Council. No times for the games have been determined.

Regardless of exactly what time of day they go down, both coaches involved applauded the move.

“Our staff and players are excited to begin competing with Nebraska the day after Thanksgiving this season and in 2012,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “College football played on this day has a well-established rivalry history, and we feel it will be a great opportunity for our program to join in a new chapter of Big Ten history. These Friday games should help create great atmosphere, both in Lincoln this fall and in Kinnick Stadium in 2012.”

“Obviously, I have the philosophy that you show up and play when and where the schedule dictates,” added Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. “That being said, playing the day after Thanksgiving has been good for our program in terms of national exposure, and we look forward to that continuing as we move into the Big Ten Conference. We have a lot of respect for Iowa’s football program and these games should be a good showcase for the league.”

The move to the Friday after Thanksgiving continues a recent tradition for the Cornhuskers dating back 20-some years. From 1990 through 1995, the school squared off with Oklahoma, then from 1996 through last year they faced Colorado.

And, in case you were wondering, Nebraska holds a 26-12-3 all-time advantage in the series. The two schools last met on the gridiron in 2000, and the geographic next-door neighbors have played just six times since 1946.

Nebraska has won the last three meetings, with Iowa’s last win coming in 1981.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.