Even though most of the nation is focused on an entirely different subject matter today, Josh Whitman distracted many Illini fans with some exciting news this afternoon about future changes to the football schedule.
This morning it was announced that Illinois will host Nebraska next season in primetime on a Friday night. This is part of the Big Ten’s push towards more weeknight games and national exposure for teams that might not otherwise be getting it. It will be one of three conference games in 2017 that will kickoff under the lights on a Friday night. Whitman also added another schedule quirk that most fans were pleased to here about: the elimination of the biannual Soldier Field series against Northwestern.
When it was originally announced last year, many fans questioned why Illinois would take away future home field advantages against the Wildcats just to play in an NFL stadium. In the University’s official release this afternoon, it seems Whitman agrees.
Whitman went on to indicate that all future rivalry games for the Land of Lincoln trophy should be played at each team’s home venue:
This sounds like a good idea, as the crowd for Illinois versus Washington back in 2013 was much larger than last season’s gathering when the Illini took on Northwestern. The next opponent for a Soldier Field game will be South Florida in 2018. If Whitman intends to continue to schedule a non-conference game in Chicago every four years, Virginia (which is on the 2022 schedule) and Duke (already on the 2026 schedule) could be two more viable options. The news of the cancellation certainly excited many football fans this afternoon:
Never understood why Illinois would give up its home field advantage against its chief rival. Josh Whitman restored the sanity.— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) November 8, 2016
Illinois, like every single other Big Ten team, will now play five home games every other season. Hallelujah.— Steve (@BigTwen) November 8, 2016
Shut down the polls, Whitman 4 Prez https://t.co/sqrPnVPzbL— Ryan Easterling (@RyanEasterling) November 8, 2016
How do you feel about Whitman cancelling the Soldier Field Series and Friday night football coming to Champaign next year? Drop by in the comments below!