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NIU seeks opponents for Soldier Field games

Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 8:03 a.m. CDT
Rob Winner — rwinner@shawmedia.com Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) carries the ball for a 6-yard gain during the second quarter in DeKalb, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. NIU defeated Massachusetts, 63-0.

CHICAGO – Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier said Thursday at the Huskies’ Chicago Media Day that there will be announcements in the “near future” about having a BCS opponent at Soldier Field.

Frazier, hired in July, said he has been able to build off the relationships with Soldier Field forged by former Huskie AD Jeff Compher.

“I’ve talked to a lot of universities since I’ve just been on the job, ... so I feel comfortable that we’ll get an excellent university that fits what we’re trying to get done,” Frazier said.

Frazier is looking for a team with a fan base that will travel well and bring more than 30,000 fans to Chicago. A game against Nebraska was scheduled for 2016, but the Huskers cancelled it July 18 in preparation for the Big Ten’s upcoming change to a nine-game conference schedule.

Frazier would not release the names of the institutions as talks are in their early stages, but he told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Seth Gruen that a game against Northwestern is “definitely something I will pursue.”

Both schools have solid alumni bases in and around Chicago, making a Soldier Field matchup a viable option. Ultimately, teaming up with the city is a goal of both programs.

“The guys love playing there, and I think it’s easy for our alumni base to come to that game,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “We love partnering with the city to do that. The Soldier Field people are unbelievable to us. I really feel like that’s our second home.”

The three games NIU has played on the Bears’ home field have been successful in drawing fans. Against Iowa in 2007, NIU set a Mid-American Conference home game record with a sellout crowd of 61,500.

Many Big Ten schools are already filling their nonconference slots for the upcoming seasons, so Frazier is trying to work quickly. He said that if a game was possible, he would prefer September, because the warmer weather would bring more fans.

The Huskies have gone up against a Big Ten opponent every year since 2004, and a Soldier Field matchup may help to continue that trend. With the exposure that it would bring NIU and the fans that would come to support their opponent, Frazier believes that a game at Soldier Field is a no-brainer for both sides.

“It’s a natural fit,” Frazier said. “It fits their needs. It fits our needs. It supplies our alumni base. It’s just a win-win.”

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