Oct. 16, 2008
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will play host to Big Ten foe Wisconsin on Sept. 17, 2011 at historic Soldier Field in Chicago and will open the 2009 season at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, officials from both schools announced Thursday.
The Huskies will return to Soldier Field for the first time since the hugely successful Labor Day weekend contest versus Iowa that filled the 61,500-seat Chicago landmark stadium on Sept. 1, 2007, producing the largest home crowd in Northern Illinois history.
"For the past several months, we have been working with the folks at Wisconsin on finalizing the details for the continuation of our series, highlighted by the tremendous opportunity to play another home game at Soldier Field," said NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher. "The comments I've received regarding the Soldier Field experience versus Iowa last year have been overwhelmingly positive. For our football program, our athletic department and especially for our university to be able to create a college football atmosphere in downtown Chicago was tremendous.
"Given the opportunity to engage with tens of thousands of Huskie alumni in the city and the chance for our student-athletes to play in an NFL stadium where many of them dreamed of playing while growing up, we felt strongly that Wisconsin is the right opponent at the right time for our return to Soldier Field. In addition, we will once again be garner extra attention from the Chicago media outlets, which is great for recruiting."
The Northern Illinois-Iowa game at Soldier Field set a then-Mid-American Conference record as a crowd of 61,500 filled the NFL venue for the game, which Iowa won, 16-3. It was the first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) game held in the stadium since its renovation in 2003. The contest was declared a sell-out six weeks prior to the game as tickets sold out in only five months.
Parking lots were filled hours before the afternoon contest for collegiate-style tailgating and Huskie and Hawkeye fans flooded Chicago hotels, restaurants and night spots during the Weekend. NIU alumni re-engaged with the school and former classmates as individual schools and groups held gatherings throughout the city on Friday night and prior to the game on Saturday.
"Soldier Field is an amazing venue and the people there, led by [general manager] Tim LeFevour, were fantastic hosts in 2007 and have worked closely with us to secure the 2011 date," Compher said. "This is an opportunity for our fans to fill the stadium and make it a true home field advantage for the Huskies. I have every confidence that they will make this a great event for our team."
The adjustment will also result in Northern Illinois opening the 2009 season at Wisconsin on Sept. 5, 2009. Administrators from Northern Illinois and Wisconsin worked together on the moves as the Badgers were looking to balance their 2009 home and away schedules while agreeing on the Soldier Field date.
First-year Northern Illinois Head Coach Jerry Kill will lead his team into a Big Ten venue to open the season for a second-straight year in 2009.
"We're going up to play a program that is respected throughout the country and certainly in the Big Ten," Kill said. "We look forward to the challenge. We have a lot of players from Wisconsin, it's a recruiting area for us and it's important to our program to play these types of games."
In addition to Wisconsin, Northern Illinois will take on Western Illinois, Purdue and Idaho in non-conference games in 2009.
-- NIU --