by Rob Moseley
Scott Frost made a name for himself as a college football player at Nebraska, and is doing so as a coach at Oregon.
In three years, those two programs dearest to Frost's heart will kick off a home-and-home series. The Ducks and Cornhuskers announced Monday that they'll meet in Nebraska in 2016, and again in Eugene the next season.
Frost played two years at quarterback with the Cornhuskers, leading them to an unbeaten national championship season as a senior in 1997.
"I have a great affection for the University of Nebraska — what the program stands for, what the people of Nebraska stand for," Frost said. "There's a lot to admire about that program. I think Oregon is very similar. We do things the right way here, with good people."
The series gives Oregon home-and-home deals in the next eight years with, in order, Michigan State, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Ohio State.
Frost, promoted earlier this year to offensive coordinator with the Ducks, will make his return to Lincoln, Neb., on Sept. 17, 2016. He would be in his fourth season as coordinator by that point, and his eighth year overall with the UO staff.
"I'm going to do my best to win, whichever side I'm on in any game, so we're going to do everything we can to prepare for and beat them, when and if the time comes," Frost said. "But I'll root for Nebraska in any other game."
The 2016 game will be Oregon's sixth trip to Lincoln — the first since 1986 — and the Ducks will be looking for their first win since 1953. Oregon opens the 2016 season at home against UC Davis and Virginia before making the trip to the Midwest.
Nebraska will make its first trip to Eugene on Sept. 9, 2017, after Oregon's home opener against Southern Utah and before the Ducks close out their nonconference slate at Wyoming.
The Nebraska series is the latest for the Ducks to be scheduled with next year's implementation of a playoff system in mind. As of 2014, a committee will select 12 playoff participants, including four semifinalists who will compete for the national championship.
Rather than schedule lesser nonconference slates to improve the odds of padding their record, Oregon's administration is sticking to the formula of scheduling at least one opponent each year from one of the other five conferences with automatic Bowl Championship Series bids.
"One, we want to make sure we provide a great fan experience, and strength of schedule is important to our fans," UO athletic director Rob Mullens said. "And the second thing is, everything we're hearing out of the College Football Playoff is that strength of schedule will be a significant factor.
"We were already in great position, with nine conference games, but the fact we've been able to add Michigan State, Ohio State and now Nebraska solidifies our strength of schedule for sure."
The desire to get such a series on the schedule required Oregon to make a significant concession: only scheduling six home games in 2016.
In even years, when the Pac-12 schedule only features four games at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks would prefer that all three nonconference games be played at home, for budgetary purposes. Football revenue provides about 65 percent of Oregon's $93 million annual budget, and ticket sales account for about one-third of that.
In the case of the Michigan State, Texas A&M and Ohio State series, the road game is played in the odd-numbered year, when the Ducks have five Pac-12 home games. But with a trip to Wyoming already scheduled for 2017, the Ducks needed to host Nebraska that season, and so will go on the road in 2016.
"We had a decision to make, and that could have been to go without a nonconference BCS AQ," Mullens said. "But we decided, no, we've got some time to try to figure out the financial puzzle. Strength of schedule in that instance outweighed us getting seven home games."
The Ducks and Nebraska will exchange $1 million payouts to the visiting team in each year of their series. That will help Oregon mitigate the loss of a home game in 2016, and is close to the figure the Ducks would have had to pay a quality opponent to play in Autzen Stadium in 2017 without Oregon making a return trip.