A Big Ten football schedule change will result in eight high school football title games coming to DeKalb on Thanksgiving weekend during odd-numbered years through 2021.
“It has long been the desire of our community to host the IHSA Football Championships,” Northern Illinois University President John G. Peters told the Rockford Register Star.. “We are extremely excited about the news and look forward to the opportunity to showcase all that DeKalb and the NIU community has to offer to high school football teams and fans from across the state.”
Illinois High School Association Executive Director Marty Hickman pointed out a unique portion of Northern Illinois University’s football bid that caught the attention of the IHSA staff and Board.
“Athletic Directors from over 100 IHSA member schools signed the bid, pledging their support for playing the games in DeKalb,” he said, “schools from as far away as Galva, Peoria Richwoods and Zion-Benton, places you don’t necessarily associate with DeKalb.
DeKalb-area businesses are hoping for a big economic boost from the change, anticipating some 32,000 visitors on the last weekend in November during those years.
“That’s a sizable economic impact to the area, not to mention the publicity surrounding the event,” Debbie Armstrong, executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told theDaily Chronicle.
She said a committee of local officials, business people and educators worked hard to win the two-day event. Other bids came from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Illinois State University in Normal.
Armstrong estimates that between $800,000 and $1 million could be generated for a wide variety of businesses -- including hotels, gas stations, shops and restaurants -- in each of those single weekends depending on several factors, such as what teams are playing.
“This is a great day for our university, the DeKalb-Sycamore community and our entire Northern Illinois region,” NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher
Compher and John Gordon, the director of the Convocation Center, which manages Huskie Stadium, led a joint campus-community steering committee to bring the state playoffs to DeKalb.
NIU’s Huskie Stadium, which boasts a seating capacity of 24,000, will be only the fourth site to host state football title games. Illinois State University hosted the games from 1974 until 1998, with Northwestern University hosting finals for the two largest classes from 1981-1984.
The University of Illinois has been the championship home since 1999, and the games will remain at Memorial Stadium in Champaign in even years.The Big Ten Conference football schedule has the Fighting Illini at home on Thanksgiving weekend in odd years through 2021.