DeKALB – NIU executive assistant athletic director John Cheney said with the NIU football team focused on recruiting in the southeast, playing a game there only made sense.
The NIU football team will take on Georgia Tech for the first time, the two schools announced Thursday. The team's will play on September 25, 2021 and is another high-profile, one-off game added by the department, with a trip to Florida State last year and future dates at Michigan (2021) and Notre Dame (2024).
Cheney said the Huskies will receive $1 million for the game as it replaces a game against Nebraska on the schedule. Cheney said that payout was also $1 million, and will be moved to the 2027 season.
"We recruit more east coast, southeast and northeast now, so we reached out to teams in the areas that would be a good destination, plus would take the place of Nebraska and that pay for that year," Cheney said. "Georgia Tech fit that. We thought it would be a good destination matchup."
The guarantees from these sort of games are a big part of the NIU funding sources, according to the school's recently released 2018-2019 annual report. The department received 3,244,500 from game guarantees department wide, accounting for 10.68% of its total revenue, more than university support and tuition wavers.
For awhile the Huskies were more focused on home and homes – such as with Utah, BYU and Boston College among others – but now focus more on the big payout while striking a balance with competitive balance, Cheney said.
"We did some home and homes, and some of those worked out and some of those didn't draw the crowd we expected," Cheney said. "But also these destination games are an opportunity for our fans – we had over 1,000 fans at the Vanderbilt game. We thing some these destination games make sense from a financial standpoint and give our fans a chance to see us in other venues."
Cheney said the team isn't trying to avoid schedules like this year per se – three straight Power 5 road games, all losses at Utah, Nebraska and Vanderbilt. He said they're shooting for more competitive balance in the future. The 2021 schedule features home games against Maine and Wyoming before going to Michigan and Georgia Tech.
"The way this one played out is what it is," Cheney said. "But with three Power 5 teams back to back to back is a challenge for the players and coaches. So it's something where we're always trying to tweak the schedule and see what we can do to improve. We thought this was one way to make it work.
Cheney said the 2021 game against Nebraska has been moved to 2027 to accommodate the Georgia Tech game. He said it was a mutual decision and moving it won't come with a penalty of any sort. The fourth game in the series between the school will now be played on Sept. 4, 2027 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskies defeated Nebraska in Lincoln in 2017 and dropped a 44-8 decision to the Cornhuskers earlier this season. NIU and Nebraska will also meet in Lincoln in 2023.
NIU and Georgia Tech will meet for the first time, and the game will be the first for the Huskies against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent from the state of Georgia. NIU is 2-8 against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference all-time and played an ACC opponent in each of the past four seasons.