Early in the 2018 football season, Northern Illinois will get a chance at a major upset on the road when the Huskies play at Florida State.
More importantly, Northern Illinois is going to get a major payday.
The school officially announced that the two teams will play each other on Sept. 22 in Tallahassee in the third game of the 2018 season and Northern Illinois will earn a guarantee of $1.6 million for the game.
"This is about being as lean a department that we could possibly be and we're as lean as we could possibly get right now, so this money helps us keep the wolves at the door and save people's jobs and do things, quite frankly, to help our university and to help our department," Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier said.
Frazier said the school is certainly feeling the hit of the Illinois state budget impasse, which started in July 2015. The payday also will help with athletic operations and the department's bottom line, Frazier said.
"It's tough, I don't want to beat up on the politicians because I've never been one, but ... I wanted to explain that it's altered a lot of things that we wanted to do because of the financial stress that's been put on our operation," Frazier said of the lack of a state budget. "The truth is, most likely, we would not have had this game or made this change if it wasn't because of the state impasse."
Frazier said the $1.6 guarantee from Florida State is the largest in Northern Illinois history. The Huskies got a $900,000 guarantee from Ohio State for the game in 2015, in which the Huskies nearly stunned the top-ranked Buckeyes before falling 20-13.
Buffalo recently made headlines for cutting four of its athletic programs, including men's soccer and baseball. Northern Illinois currently has 17 athletic programs and would need to keep at least 16 to keep Football Bowl Subdivision status. Frazier said there hasn't even been a discussion about dropping programs and playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
"We haven't had those talks," Frazier said. "No, no, no, that's never been a discussion with me, nor would I advocate for that at all."
The contest against Florida State replaces a game Northern Illinois had against Idaho that was scheduled for Sept. 22 at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies' non-conference slate is considerably tough in 2018, with games at Florida State, Iowa (Sept. 1) and BYU (Oct. 27) and a home game against Utah (Sept. 8).
The Seminoles, who won the national championship in 2014, finished last year with a 10-3 record and were ranked No. 8 in the final poll. All four of the Huskies' 2018 opponents made bowl games last season, with Iowa finishing 8-5 and BYU and Utah each going 9-4. Utah finished ranked No. 23 in the final poll.
"I'm a football guy and if you look at it competitively, we already had a competitive schedule," Frazier said. "I put together a very good schedule for us and to add (Florida State) in, all due respect to Florida State, the main motivation was to deal with our financial strife. ... It's not like we needed another Power 5 team on our schedule. We have a pretty aggressive and ambitious schedule without them. This makes it even more competitive."
According to the university, Northern Illinois has already received one of the three installments of payment from Florida State.
Frazier said that he reached out to Florida State initially with talks about a game, which filled a hole in the Seminoles' schedule. The game will be a rematch of when the two teams squared off in the Orange Bowl in 2013. The Huskies, who were led by current running backs coach Jordan Lynch, trailed 17-10 early in the third quarter before the Seminoles scored 14 unanswered points for a 31-10 victory.