Football: NIU will host state finals in odd-numbered years
By Rick Armstrong email@example.com June 11, 2012 8:44PM
Northern Illinois University will host the high school football finals starting next year, alternating every other year with the University of Illinois in Champaign. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2012 6:23AM
The eight state football finals are coming to DeKalb and Northern Illinois University in odd years beginning in 2013 and extending through 2021.
“I thought we had a good shot but I wouldn’t have bet against Illinois State either,” said DeKalb High School athletic director Dan Jones, a member of the joint campus-community steering committee that was led by NIU athletic director Jeff Compher and Convocation Center director John Gordon in putting together the winning bid.
Illinois State and Southern Illinois also submitted bids for the finals, which have to be moved from Illinois every other year due to a scheduling problem with Big Ten football since the league expanded to 12 teams. The Illini must now play a home game every other Thanksgiving weekend, when the prep playoffs end.
“ISU is centrally located and from Champaign to Bloomington-Normal is only 40 miles, but I really felt like Northern had facilities — especially with the indoor practice facility coming next year — that were similar to Champaign,” said Jones, who also had the idea that may have clinched the bid for NIU.
Jones, who will leave DeKalb to become AD at Hinsdale Central this summer, solicited support from his fellow athletic directors to support NIU’s bid.
“We got letters of support signed by about 130 of them,” said Jones. “I was overwhelmed by the response we got.”
IHSA officials noticed.
“Schools from as far away as Galva, Peoria Richwoods and Zion-Benton, places you don’t necessarily associate with DeKalb (wrote on its behalf),” noted IHSA executive director Marty Hickman. “It went a long way to showing us how much it meant to the entire region to have the state championships played there.
“Ultimately, all three football bids were extremely strong and almost interchangeable.”
Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum was tabbed by the IHSA board to hold the inaugural Competitive Dance State Finals for a five-year term from 2013 through 2017. Others vying for that bid were Rockford’s BMO Harris Bank Center, Moline’s iWireless Center, Springfield’s Prairie Capital Convention Center and the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates.
The DeKalb-NIU committee is hopeful the finals will draw bigger crowds to 24,000-capacity Huskie Stadium because many of the finalists tend to come from Chicagoland, making it a shorter drive to the games for many of their fans.
Huskie Stadium will be the fourth site for the title games, which were held at ISU’s Hancock Stadium from their inception in 1974 until 1998. Illinois has been the championship’s home since 1999, while from 1981-1984, Northwestern hosted the two largest classes (5A and 6A) with 1A through 4A at ISU.