John Anthony

CEO of Anthony Travel John Anthony speaks with media about Nebraska's 2021 game against Illinois in Ireland at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Bill Moos will be the first to admit that he’s rarely the apple of someone’s eye.

That is, unless that someone is John Anthony, CEO of Anthony Travel.

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, still recalls Sept. 9, 2009 when Husker faithful did one of their patented takeovers of opposing stadiums, creating a “sea of red” that resonates to this day with Fighting Irish fans. 

17 years after that game, now running a travel agency that specializes in sports travel, Anthony made a pitch to the 14 athletic directors of the Big Ten conference, but had just one program and color in mind.

"You could tell that I was the high school kid focused on one girl at the dance," Anthony said. "Because with 50 people there, I stared at Bill the entire time. I was so locked in on getting Nebraska as the first Big Ten team over, because this is a special place, and you were the beauty of the ball for us."

Moos, who had been the athletics director at Nebraska for less than a year at the time, was interested. Following the end of the spring recruiting period, he presented the idea to Frost, who was in his fourth month as the head coach of Nebraska. Frost was immediately receptive to the idea and negotiations became more serious.

There have been four college football games played in Ireland before, most recently in 2016. Following the 2016 matchup, Irish officials reached out to Anthony about making Dublin an annual stop for college football.

Starting in 2020, there will be five consecutive years featuring a game on the Emerald Isle. The series begins with a rematch of Notre Dame and Navy, who have played in Ireland twice before, and will continue in 2021 with Nebraska facing Illinois. 

The game will be Nebraska football’s first trip abroad since a 1992 game against Kansas State played in Tokyo, Japan. It will also be Moos and Frost’s first trips to Ireland, although two current members of Frost’s staff and one current player are familiar with the event. 

Tight ends coach Sean Beckton and defensive backs coach Travis Fisher were assistants at Central Florida in 2014 when the Golden Knights lost to Penn State on a last-second field goal in Ireland. Junior running back Dedrick Mills had a more positive experience in the event, scoring the game-winning touchdown as a freshman to lead Georgia Tech over Boston College in 2016.

Through one day of ticket sales, Nebraska has set a record for most tickets sold in that span. Organizers of the event are hoping that Husker fans can top Notre Dame’s record of 28,000 tickets purchased. 

“If you’re traveling from Scottsbluff and Alliance to get to Lincoln, hopping over the pond to get to Ireland is no big deal,” Moos said. “I have every reason to believe that [NU fans] will show up en masse and turn that beautiful green country into Husker red.”

"The fan base here is well known throughout the sport, the country," Anthony said. "Nobody can match Nebraska fans with how you travel, the knowledge, the loyalty, the respect for the game. The Husker nation is something very special."

Frost is also excited about the opportunity presented for his team. He said that he is glad that the players will have a chance to travel abroad and hopes to schedule out time before or after the game to enjoy the sights of Ireland. The Huskers will not play the following Saturday.

“In traveling and seeing other things, you don’t just have a good time, but you learn a lot,” Frost said. “I think it’s an incredible educational experience. I think our players will benefit from it, both from a football standpoint and from a personal standpoint.”

Because of the earlier start to the season, Frost said Nebraska will start camp a week earlier than every other college football program in 2021.

sports@dailynebraskan.com