Big Ten Conference schools play an important part of Northern Illinois’ nonconference football schedule.
In 2012, NIU’s opener was against Iowa at Soldier Field. Next season, the Huskies will visit Iowa City on Aug. 31, and head to Purdue on Sept. 28. The Huskies have a game scheduled at Ohio State in 2015, and NIU will play host to Nebraska at Soldier Field in 2016. The Huskies will visit Lincoln in 2017 and 2019.
The Big Ten, which expanded to 12 teams with the addition of Nebraska in 2011 and will welcome Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, is talking about going to a nine-game, or even a 10-game conference schedule.
The conference recently decided it no longer will schedule Football Championship Subdivision games, which would save Big Ten fans from some extremely lopsided contests but would hurt the smaller programs financially.
Playing against the Big Ten is important to NIU in more regional matchups, although the Huskies take on teams from other BCS conferences as well when getting their guarantee games.
With Big Ten schools a yearly fixture on NIU’s slate, is there any chance the league’s decision to add more conference games could impact the Huskies or other Mid-American Conference schools?
The answer is no, according to NIU athletic director Jeff Compher.
“I’m not concerned about that at all,” he said. “I think there’s a good relationship that we have with the Big Ten, and I would suspect them to schedule us as they normally have.”
Compher said the schools that make up the Big Ten will want home games. So, even if the conference were to play 10 league games, which seems unlikely, Big Ten schools probably won’t want to schedule BCS schools in the nonconference to get more home contests against non-AQ teams, which is a positive for schools like NIU.
“They need home games, so that’s important to them, obviously,” Compher said. “So they’ll be looking to try and fill in for additional home games, and I would think that if they’re going to schedule more within their conference, they’re not as likely to schedule more teams from other AQ conferences as much, if they’re trying to schedule more conference games in there.
“So I think they’ll continue to look at the MAC as a good partner for some of their nonleague games.”