June 5, 2006
DeKALB, IL – Dating back to 1899, Northern Illinois University football has called Glidden Field and Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium home. Now add one of the most illustrious and historic gridiron venues in the nation to that “home field” list.
Chicago’s own 61,500-seat Soldier Field.
Northern Illinois will host Big Ten Conference representative University of Iowa on Saturday, September 1, 2007, at Soldier Field during Labor Day weekend. The NIU-Iowa match-up marks the first National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A grid contest in the lakefront facility since its 2003 renovation, plus the initial appearance of either school at Soldier Field for football.
The joint announcement was made by Northern Illinois Athletics Director Jim Phillips and Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby Monday.
“For all Huskie fans, Hawkeye fans, and college football fans in general, this is a win-win-win situation,” Phillips said. “For us to attract a quality Big Ten program such as Iowa into Soldier Field is tremendous. It’s a terrific match-up between two schools who have thousands of Chicago area alumni. For us, this is creative scheduling. What’s better than a `home’ game in Soldier Field just 65 miles down the road and in the nation’s No. 3 media market? It’s a great game, an even better venue, and an attractive date for television. That said, I would also like to give a special thanks to Rick Chryst (Mid-American Conference commissioner), Jim Delaney (Big Ten commissioner), and Bob Bowlsby who really helped us put this package together.”
Bowlsby appreciates the match-up, too. “We’re very excited to be playing Northern Illinois in such a historic venue as Soldier Field,” the Iowa AD said. “Northern is an outstanding institution with an excellent football program. We look forward to the renewal of the series this October in Iowa City. And, I expect an awful lot of Hawkeye fans will find their way into Chicago to see this game next year. It should be a special day for both programs.”
In 2006, Northern Illinois will play two Big Ten opponents—opening the campaign at Ohio State on September 2 and traveling to Iowa on October 28. By next season, the Huskies will have played nine of the 11 Big Ten programs since 1971 in football. The 2007 NIU-Iowa date represents the seventh meeting in the Huskie-Hawkeye grid series. The first six all occurred at Kinnick Stadium (1985, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1999, and 2006) in Iowa City, IA.
“It’s a natural (game),” said Northern Illinois head football coach Joe Novak. “Over the years, we’ve talked about playing the Big Ten programs in our neighboring states. Kirk Ferentz has done a great job at Iowa with four straight January bowl appearances and averaging nine wins a year. Traditionally, Iowa travels as well as anyone in the Big Ten. With our 150,000 living alumni in the Chicagoland area and the fact that we are playing in downtown Chicago on Labor Day weekend, we have a great chance for a sellout at Soldier Field. What a weekend to spend in downtown Chicago.”
Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have produced the best four-year run (38-12 combined won-lost record) in Iowa football history (11-2 in 2002, 10-3 in 2003, 10-2 in 2004, and 7-5 in 2005) and won 22 straight games at Kinnick Stadium. In 1999—NIU’s last losing campaign—Ferentz led the Hawkeyes to a 24-0 victory over Novak’s Northern Illinois team. That win marked Ferentz’s first as Iowa’s head coach.
In the interim, Novak has led the Huskies to six consecutive winning seasons (6-5 in 2000 and 2001, 8-4 in 2002, 10-2 in 2003, 9-3 in 2004, and 7-5 in 2005), four Mid-American Conference West Division titles in the last five years, and two postseason appearances (2004 Silicon Valley Football Classic and 2005 MAC Championship Game). In 2003, Northern Illinois defeated three BCS programs (Associated Press No. 15-rated Maryland, AP No. 21 Alabama, and Iowa State).
Soldier Field marks the ninth current or former National Football League venue in which the Huskies have appeared. Since 1968, Northern Illinois has played at (1) Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego Chargers) in San Diego, CA (San Diego State), (2) Anaheim Stadium (Los Angeles Rams) in Anaheim, CA (Long Beach State), the (3) Orange Bowl (Miami Dolphins) in Miami, FL (Miami, FL), the (4) Metrodome (Minnesota Vikings) in Minneapolis, MN (Minnesota), (5) Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia Eagles) in Philadelphia, PA (Temple), (6) Vanderbilt Stadium (Tennessee Titans) in Nashville, TN (Vanderbilt), (7) Memorial Stadium (Chicago Bears) in Champaign, IL (Illinois), and (8) Raymond James Stadium (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) in Tampa Bay, FL (South Florida).
Except for the brief one-year hiatus during the construction (2002), the Chicago Bears have called Soldier Field home since 1971. Since its dedication with the Army-Navy football game in 1926, the venerable Soldier Field facility has hosted some of the greatest events in sport—boxing’s Dempsey-Tunney prize fight in 1927, college football’s all-time single-game attendance record (123,000) for Notre Dame-Southern Calinfornia in 1927, and soccer’s World Cup in 2002.
The first football game played at Soldier Field was Notre Dame-Northwestern on November 22, 1924. In more recent years, Illinois, Northwestern, and Notre Dame have hosted games at Soldier Field. NU lost to Notre Dame twice (42-7 on September 5, 1992, and 42-15 on September 3, 1994) and beat Oklahoma (24-0 on August 23, 1997) in the Pigskin Classic. Washington State edged Illinois, 10-9, on September 1, 1994. Last season, NCAA Division 1-AA institutions Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State battled in the Chicago Classic at Soldier Field on September 3, 2005.
Ironically, the 2007 Northern Illinois-Iowa match-up on the Chicago lakefront comes exactly 20 years after a proposed 1987 Huskie-Miami (FL) match-up in Soldier Field. Northern Illinois lost to All-America quarterback Vinny Testaverde and the No. 1-ranked Hurricanes, 34-0, in the Orange Bowl on October 4, 1986, and negotiations began for a Chicago rematch in 1987 which never materialized.