The Northwestern Wildcats will take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 27th August at 5.30 pm.
It is the delayed renewal of the series that kick’s off one of the United States’ most popular sporting competitions and it will be coming to Dublin for the next five years.
As a measure of the popularity, the Big Ten conference in which both of the visiting teams play is currently negotiating a new round of media rights that are currently valued at $440 million a year and are expected to more than double to over $1 billion each year with the addition of UCLA and USC to the roster.
It promises to be one of the sporting and business highlights of the summer and here are ten things you might be interested to know about it.
This is Big
An exhibition game, this is not. The high-profile Big Ten Conference fixture will open the 2022 College Football Season. The Aviva Stadium will host 16,000 in-bound tourists to watch the game. The broadcasted game on FOX will have a live US TV audience of around 3.5 million viewers.
This is the first time that either team has travelled to play in Ireland, and they are travelling in force with title sponsors, Aer Lingus. On game day, 230 football players, 146 band members and 32 cheerleaders will take to the field in the Aviva Stadium. This event kicks off a five-game series of College Football coming to Dublin over the coming years.
Based in Chicago, Northwestern are a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and finished last year with a number 10 rank in the Associated Press Poll of all College Football teams, their highest rank since 1995. In 2020 Northwestern earned its second Big Ten West Division championship in three seasons.
Led by Irish-American Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats will look to kick off the new season on a positive note against Nebraska. Fitzgerald heads into his 17th season as head coach having achieved huge success with the University as a player, becoming a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
With connections from Nurney in Co. Kildare, Fitzgerald and his team are sure to receive to a warm welcome from the Aviva Stadium crowd.
The support of the Cornhuskers in Nebraska is avid and unwavering. The team have sold out their now 85,000-capacity stadium for 382 consecutive home games, stretching all the way back to 1962.
The Cornhuskers have the best win percentage in college football over the past 50 years and have captured five national championships—1970, 1971, 1994, 1995 and 1997. The school has also produced three Heisman Trophy winners, and more than 100 All-Americans.
Much More Than a Game
What would a game of American Football be without the unique pageantry and fanfare that surrounds it?
Merrion Square will host pep rallies for both Northwestern and Nebraska on Friday, 26th August from 3-5 pm. Those looking to get into the spirit of the game can expect performances from the team’s marching bands and cheer squads who will provide a sneak peek of what match-goers have to look forward to the following day.
On game day, head for Temple Bar to enjoy the unique tradition of a ‘Tailgate Party’. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to attend one, a tailgate party is an event held before American Football games where, typically, supporters meet in the stadium car park to enjoy some food and drink out of their open tailgate (American for car boot) while excitement builds for the game.
While away from home, Northwestern fans will happily make do with the surrounds of Fitzsimons Temple Bar, while the Nebraska tailgate party takes place at Buskers Temple Bar. Both events kick off at 12 noon.
March to your own Beat
Never to be found wanting for support, the teams will bring 146 musicians which form the two universities’ marching bands to the Aviva Stadium. Much more than just music, the bands will perform their choreography sets which are worth the entrance fee alone.
A quick Youtube search will show what these marching bands are all about and the hours upon hours of practice that go into each performance.
Beyond showing support for the team and entertaining supporters, last year cheerleading was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee as a sport in its own right.
It’s easy to see why with the standard of choreography and feats of acrobatic athleticism. While adding something special to the game atmosphere, the cheer squads have to be seen to be believed.
Willie and Herbie – the Best of Enemies
In the purple corner, representing Northwestern, we have Willie the Wildcat. Meanwhile, in the red corner, representing Nebraska, we have Herbie Husker. Which mascot will be celebrating at the end of the game?
The Aer Lingus College Football Classic is due to have a major impact on tourism and the wider economy in Ireland, as fans of both colleges travel in their thousands to cheer on the teams.
The game represents the biggest inbound international event in Ireland since 2019 with 13,000 US fans and 3,000 European fans expected to travel for game week in Dublin. Overall, the game is worth an estimated €63 million to the Irish economy.
Tickets will be discounted to €30 this Friday 5th and Saturday 6th August for 48 hours only. Outside of this window, tickets are still available from €60 for adults and €30 for children and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
Hospitality packages for the 2022 game are on sale through the official corporate hospitality game partner Corporate.ie.