Illinois dumps Soldier Field series against Northwestern

Sports

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football’s “Windy City Series” against Northwestern is no longer.  Illini athletic director Josh Whitman announced the biannual series against the Wildcats at Solder Field will be moved to Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

“We feel strongly that we should play our traditional rivalry games in Champaign, but at the same time we are committed to a strong presence in Chicago,” Whitman said in a university released statement Tuesday.  “Our intent is to play a major non-conference opponent at Soldier Field once every four years. Our team and fans enjoyed the game against Washington in 2013. It is important to maintain exposure in Chicago, and this also allows our fans and student-athletes an opportunity to experience Soldier Field.”

Illinois is switching games at Soldier Field, not cancelling its contract.  They’ll now play non-conference games earlier in the season at the “Home of the Chicago Bears.”  The first game will be against South Florida in 2018.

The Big Ten Conference announced that Illinois’ league opener against Nebraska next year will be played on Friday night.  It’s one of six Friday night home games for B1G teams next year.  The Illini tried to host a Friday night game in 2015 but it was postponed due to poor weather.

“We are excited about these changes to our upcoming football schedules,” Whitman added. “The Friday game will provide a national platform for a marquee matchup against Nebraska.”
 
“The national television exposure of a Friday night game on one of the major networks will help build our program,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said.

“We feel strongly that we should play our traditional rivalry games in Champaign, but at the same time we are committed to a strong presence in Chicago,” Whitman said. “Our intent is to play a major non-conference opponent at Soldier Field once every four years. Our team and fans enjoyed the game against Washington in 2013. It is important to maintain exposure in Chicago, and this also allows our fans and student-athletes an opportunity to experience Soldier Field.”

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