Huskie Stadium in DeKalb will host odd-numbered years
If area high school football teams are fortunate enough to play for state championships in the near future, they might not have to travel very far to do so.
Beginning in 2013 and continuing in odd years through 2021, Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University
in DeKalb will be the host site
for the eight title games. The games will remain at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign in even years (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020).
The variation in schedule was necessitated by a change in the Big Ten Conference football schedule that will have Illinois playing home games on the IHSA state final weekend in odd years.
Morrison coach Cory Bielema, whose teams won state titles in 2009 and 2011, welcomed the change.
“With our experience, we did a good job of traveling,” Bielema said, “but it would be nice to only have to drive an hour or so if we happen to make it back there.”
“I’m not that familiar with the NIU facilities,” Bielema said. “but I understand they’re very nice, and the smaller stadium will really help to make it a great atmosphere.”
Bids from Southern Illinois University and Illinois State were also submitted. The scales tipped in NIU’s favor, however, with strong support from throughout the region.
“Athletic directors from over 100 IHSA member schools signed the bid, pledging their support for playing the games in DeKalb,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said. “Schools from as far away as Galva, Peoria Richwoods and Zion-Benton, places you don’t necessarily associate with DeKalb. It went a long way to showing us how much it meant to the entire region to have the state championships played there.”
Newman defensive coordinator Tim Nelson thinks the move by the IHSA was the right call.
“NIU is the perfect facility for this,” he said. “There’s no track around the football field, so the fans are going to be right on top of the action. It’s going to be incredible. I know some of the southern teams will have issues about the travel, but for teams around here, it’s going to be great.”
Nelson also anticipated if an area team were to make it to the finals when NIU hosted, extra fans would hop on their bandwagon to show their support.
“If we aren’t playing but Morrison or Lena-Winslow or anybody around here is, I’ll definitely be going to watch,” he said.
The state final games will also be an economic boon to the area, with hotels, restaurants, bars and gas stations seeing a bump in business. Debbie Armstrong, executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects about 32,000 visitors and an extra $800,000 to $1 million to be spent championship weekend.
“That’s a sizable economic impact to the area, not to mention the publicity surrounding the event,” Armstrong told the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.
Huskie Stadium becomes the fourth-ever host site for the state football title games. Illinois State University hosted the games from their inception in 1974 until 1988, and the University of Illinois has been the championship home since 1999.
From 1981-84, Northwestern University hosted the two largest class games (5A & 6A), while the 1A-4A games were played at ISU.
State football finals
• NIU hosting in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021
• U of I hosting in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020