Listen to the full interview here (5/22 show).

KEARNEY, Neb. — In-state rivalries are returning to the gridiron among Nebraska’s Division ll schools.

University of Nebraska-Kearney athletic director Marc Bauer announced on “The Doug & Daddy Show” on ESPN Tri-Cities that UNK has an agreement with Wayne State to play home and home games against the Wildcats in 2025 and 2026. The games are scheduled for week zero.

The agreement with the Wildcats comes as UNK is set to open its season at Chadron State this fall. It will be the 73rd all-time meeting between the Lopers and Eagles. The August contest will mark UNK’s first non-conference regular season game since 2013, excluding the pandemic-adjusted 2020 season. The three in-state schools used to play regularly but the Div. ll trend of playing a conference-only schedule put an end to the rivalries. Conference realignment, and the new option to play in week zero, is allowing the traditional matchups to reignite.

“We’re excited about having some non-con games for the first time in many years," Bauer said. "It’s been a long time."

The Lopers and Eagles played during the pandemic-adjusted 2020 season. The last time UNK played Chadron State and Wayne State in regularly scheduled games was in 2011.

“Coach (Ryan) Held is the force behind this," Bauer said. "He’s like, ‘we want rivalries.’ We want that tradition, we want it continued.”

The UNK vs. Chadron State game will move from week zero to week one in 2025. Bauer says the schools are considering creating a cup or trophy as part of the in-state games.

“If you win, you take it home proudly and you proudly display it,” Bauer said.

UNK’s conference, the MIAA, is hosting its annual meetings next week. Bauer says the conference is discussing two different scheduling models. One of them establishes three open weeks at the start of the season. The open slots allow for non-conference games. One of the open weeks could be traded for a bye later in the year.

“In my mind’s eye, it creates more flexibility," Bauer said.

He says the conference is also considering a plan with open slots in weeks zero and one combined with a league-wide open week in October.

The school CEOs will be the ones to vote on future scheduling plans.

The MIAA schedule changes come as the conference is actively looking to expand. Bauer says expansion will likely lead to splitting the conference into north and south divisions.

“What we’re seeing is it’s kind of bleeding down south and it’s potentially heading north, so we don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Bauer said.