IHSA awards state football finals to NIU
DeKALB – Northern Illinois athletic director Jeff Compher was in a meeting Monday when he received a message from his secretary.
Compher was told IHSA Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson had called. With the IHSA scheduled to announce where it would award its football state finals in odd-numbered years starting in 2013, Compher wasn’t sure if Gibson would give him good or bad news.
While Compher called Gibson back and wasn’t able to reach him, the two finally were able to get in touch a short while later.
NIU’s AD got the information he wanted when Gibson told him NIU had been awarded the bid.
“I said, ‘Kurt, I hope you’ve got some good news for me,’ “ Compher said. “By then I had already heard some rumblings that we may have already got it, but I hadn’t heard it officially. He confirmed that we had in fact received it.
“I said, ‘Are we getting all eight games?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you’re getting all eight games, two days.’ So I was really excited about that.”
The IHSA Board of Directors awarded the football state finals in odd-numbered years starting in 2013 through 2021 to NIU, which beat out Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University for the right to host the two-day, eight-class event.
The University of Illinois has hosted the high school state championship games at Memorial Stadium since 1999, but changes to the Big Ten schedule forced the IHSA to find a host for title games in odd-numbered years starting next year. The site proposal specifications sought a host for five seasons (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021) for the eight classes of football. Illinois will continue to host in even-numbered years.
A big part of NIU being awarded the state football finals was its close location to the Chicago area.
To show support from the northern part of the state, DeKalb
High School athletic director Dan Jones gathered signatures – 114 of them in total, from ADs from all over northern Illinois.
Included in the bid NIU submitted to the IHSA was a map of the state with DeKalb exposed, highlighting the city’s proximity to Chicago and its suburbs.
“We emphasized our location,” said NIU spokesman Brad Hoey, who was on NIU’s steering committee that put the bid together. “We emphasized our population base, and we just felt that it was a good fit.”
Huskie Stadium seats 24,000 – a larger capacity than either ISU or SIU, while the $9.5 million Chessick Practice Center is scheduled to be ready by the start of the 2013 season, the first year NIU would host the finals. Convocation Center director John Gordon added that Huskie Stadium has gotten an approval for a new video board that will be in by the time NIU hosts the football state championships.
Facilities were one more thing that worked in NIU’s favor.
“To be completely honest, Northern Illinois University’s bid was incredibly competitive in 2000 when we ultimately chose the University of Illinois,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a news release. “With the addition of the new practice facility and other upgrades, this year’s bid simply built on that momentum. “
Said Gordon, “We think these are positives. That the Yordon Center was connected right [north of Huskie Stadium]. The Chessick will be connected right behind it.”
Last season, NIU hosted Eastern Michigan the day after Thanksgiving, the day of the IHSA Class 1A through 4A football finals. Compher said NIU would be able to work with the Mid-American Conference in avoiding home games when the championships are played in DeKalb.
“Those kinds of things they understand,” Compher said. “I feel like we can work with them and work through those things.”
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