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
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
"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 to Face Badgers at Soldier Field in 2011
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