Illinois to play Nebraska in Dublin for 2021 Big-Ten season opener

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By DI Sports Desk

Illinois will travel to Dublin, Ireland to kick off the 2021 season, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Monday. Illinois, Nebraska and Irish American Events Limited will bring Big Ten football to Ireland as part of the Aer Lingus College Football Series at Aviva Stadium in Dublin for a Week Zero game on August 28, 2021.

“The University of Illinois, our football program, our alumni and fans, and the entire Fighting Illini family are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the Emerald Isle,” Athletic director Josh Whitman said, per fightingillini.com. “When first approached about this game almost two years ago, we had immediate interest. This game will provide an incredible educational opportunity for our football student-athletes who, because of their schedule, generally do not receive the same international experiences as many of our other student-athletes. For our fans, I hope they will journey with us across the Atlantic for a wonderful trip and a major football game, all set against the beauty of Ireland.”

The game marks the Illinois football program’s first foreign trip and will face Nebraska in the second game of the annual Aer Lingus College Football Series. Both Big Ten teams will join programs such as Notre Dame and Navy, who will be playing a game in Dublin a week prior to Illinois and Nebraska.

Irish American Events Limited, who partnered with Illinois’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to plan the event, said the announcement of the Illinois-Nebraska game not only gives both programs an opportunity to play overseas but has also helped bring American football to Ireland.

“Irish American Events was formed in 2015 with a goal to establish Ireland as the European headquarters of college football,” said John Anthony, of Irish American Events Limited, per fightingillini.com. “Today as we announce the Fighting Illini versus Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2021, we are thrilled to have these programs pursue this tremendous opportunity for their student-athletes, fans, and universities. The 2021 Aer Lingus Classic will be the second game in an annual five-game series, as they will proceed Notre Dame and Navy visiting Ireland along with ESPN College GameDay in 2020. This is the first time in history that there will be consecutive years of American college football games in Ireland. We are honored that these universities recognize that the Aer Lingus College Football Classic is much more than a game and Irish American Events is thrilled to promote and operate this prestigious series.”

According to fightingillini.com, the original date for the Illinois-Nebraska game was November 13, 2021, at Memorial Stadium. However, the schedule change will give Illinois two bye-weeks during the 2021 season.

Both teams will travel to Dublin nearly a week prior to the team to “acclimate to the different time zone” and experience the culture. The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics said television assignments are to be determined for the game.