Illinois and Northwestern will square off at the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field in three of the next five seasons.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced the agreement, which will begin in 2015, on Monday. The 2015 matchup, which was originally scheduled for Memorial Stadium in Champaign, will be played on Nov. 28. In addition to the 2015 game, the two Big Ten squads will meet up at Soldier Field in 2017 and 2019, both of which were also slated for Memorial Stadium.
“It’s exciting to seize the opportunity to further engage our incredible number of Illinois alumni and fans in the Chicagoland area with these three football games coming to Soldier Field,” Thomas said in a statement. “As the flagship university in the state we are committed to all Fighting Illini, and as part of that mindset, we will continue to bring a variety of athletics events to Chicago where we have the largest base of any Big Ten institution.”
Northwestern’s scheduled home games against the Illini are still scheduled to be played in Evanston. With Illinois giving up its home games, this is a bold move by the Illini as the athletic program presumably hopes to boost its presence in the Chicago market. Northwestern has long proclaimed itself to be “Chicago’s Big Ten team.”
With a large alumni base in the Chicago area, Illinois seems confident it will be able to draw a significant crowd to Soldier Field.
"By taking these Thanksgiving weekend games to Soldier Field, we will provide a great environment for our student-athletes, fans and students who are already in the Chicagoland area for the holiday, and it becomes a destination game for all Fighting Illini fans,” Thomas said. “Ending the regular season at a historical site and one of the best stadiums in the world will make for a big-time event for our student-athletes and will be a great springboard for our football program into the postseason.”
The in-state rivals’ last neutral site game in Chicago took place at Wrigley Field in 2010, a 48-27 Illinois win. It proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare with the two teams having to face the same direction to avoid the brick outfield wall’s close proximity to one end zone. The teams won't have that problem at Soldier Field.
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For more Northwestern news, visit WildcatReport.com.
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