Earlier this year, Missouri played a neutral site game against Memphis in St. Louis. Well, they strong-armed Memphis to move their home half of the series from the Liberty Bowl to the Dome at America’s Center. Look at this tweet below and decide how much of a “neutral” game this was.
Similarly, last week, Nebraska and Cincinnati “agreed” to move their 2025 game from Nippert Stadium to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game provides a grand stage for both teams, especially for Nebraska, who has set their sights on a chance to play for a Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.
However, they have not appeared in Lucas Oil since 2012. Conveniently, Nebraska kept their home half of the game in Lincoln in 2032.
On the surface, this is a mistake. Neither program has any strong ties to Indiana. Nebraska has a strong Midwest brand, but a shift from relevance since 2001 diluted its drawing power.
Additionally, these “showcase games” at Lucas Oil Stadium tend to draw poorly, as the table below indicates. (The table excludes the Circle City Classic).
The other two FBS regular season games at Lucas Oil Stadium since the 2017 Ally Classic between Purdue and Louisville saw stark declines in attendance. Had the defending Heisman Trophy winner not played in the 2017 Louisville-Purdue game, attendance would likely have declined significantly.
Shockingly, all three regular season games at Lucas Oil Stadium since 2017 involved local programs. Louisville was the most “distant” program to play at Lucas Oil Stadium, 113 miles away from Indianapolis, but still within a two-hour drive from the city.
While Cincinnati is only 113 miles from Indianapolis, Lincoln is a whopping 640 miles away from the Circle City. The promoters are taking a considerable gamble.
They are hoping Nebraska fans will drive over nine hours for a non-conference game against a school whose Power Five pedigree consists of Big East membership from 2005-2012 and their newfound Big 12 residency starting this year. Not to mention, Cincinnati made no bowls from 1950-1996.
Younger Nebraska fans may leap at the opportunity, but older Nebraska fans accustomed to New Year’s Bowls in the Tom Osborne and Frank Solich years may scoff at this game.
Whether Cincinnati and Nebraska made the right decision remains to be seen. However, there is an underlying tragedy in this whole situation. Nippert Stadium is one of college football’s treasures, opened in 1915 and nestled in a beautiful campus backdrop that has remained mostly unchanged.
Despite its rich history, it has hardly had the opportunity to host programs with as much tradition as Nebraska. Not even Buckeye State blueblood Ohio State has played at Nippert, opting to play its one visit to Cincinnati since 1900 at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium.
Alabama did the same when they visited Cincinnati in 1984 and opted to play at Riverfront Stadium. In 2025, once-mighty Nebraska was supposed to change the narrative. Instead, they opted for a site where both schools will likely struggle to draw fans.