The University of Utah will become the first Pac-12 Conference football team to play in Huskie Stadium when the Utes and Northern Illinois University Huskies kick off a home-and-home series Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in DeKalb, NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier announced Thursday.
NIU will return the game Sept. 7, 2019, when the Huskies take on Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
The historic announcement comes on Day Three of Huskie Football “SchedulePalooza” as NIU is revealing a new future football series every day this week. On Tuesday, NIU kicked off SchedulePalooza by announcing a home-and-home series with San Diego State in 2016 and 2017. Wednesday, the Huskies released dates for games versus BYU in 2018 and 2020.
The Huskies’ 2018 game with Utah will mark NIU’s second game all-time versus a Pac-12 opponent. NIU fell to Oregon State, 67-28, in Corvallis to close out the 1996 season in its only previous Pac-12 contest.
“This series with the University of Utah is a big step forward in our future scheduling,” Frazier said. “We are bringing a Pac-12 opponent to our house for the first time, and will meet our goals of facing teams from the Power 5 conferences every year. This series will positively affect our program in many, many ways.”
The fact that all three series announced during SchedulePalooza to date are against teams from out west is simply a matter of timing with the game contracts and does not indicate a westward focus in scheduling, Frazier said. He added that series with teams from across the country are in the works and will be announced as they are finalized. SchedulePalooza is the result of nearly a year of work by Frazier and his staff.
Utah has averaged nearly nine wins per season since 2003 with five 10-win seasons. During that time, the Utes finished the season ranked in the Top 25 five times, including a No. 2 national ranking in 2008. Utah went 8-1 while playing in nine bowl games between 2003-11. Since 2002, nine Utah players have earned first team All-America honors and they have had 17 players selected in the NFL Draft in the last six years.
The Utah games are the third of four series’ NIU is announcing this week on NIUHuskies.com as part of SchedulePalooza.
NIU gives fans a chance to guess that day’s opponent by offering “hints” to their followers on the Huskies’ primary social media platforms – @NIUAthletics on Twitter and NIU Huskies on Instagram and Facebook.
SchedulePalooza will lead directly into the start of preseason camp for the NIU football team as the Huskies open practice Saturday, Aug. 2. NIU’s 46 wins over the last four seasons are the second-highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Huskies take a school and MAC record 26-game home stadium winning streak into the 2014 season opener versus Presbyterian at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28.