(CBS) In an effort to enhance its presence in Chicago, Illinois football has moved its scheduled home games against Northwestern in 2015, 2017 and 2019 to Soldier Field.

Each of the games was scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a time when the Illinois campus is typically dead with students having gone home.

“It’s exciting to seize the opportunity to further engage our incredible number of Illinois alumni and fans in the Chicagoland area with these three football games coming to Soldier Field,” Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said in a statement. “As the flagship university in the state we are committed to all Fighting Illini, and as part of that mindset, we will continue to bring a variety of athletics events to Chicago where we have the largest alumni base of any Big Ten institution.

“By taking these Thanksgiving weekend games to Soldier Field, we will provide a great environment for our student-athletes, fans and students who are already in the Chicagoland area for the holiday, and it becomes a destination game for all Fighting Illini fans. Ending the regular season at a historical site and one of the best stadiums in the world will make for a big-time event for our student-athletes and will be a great springboard for our football program into the postseason. Recruits want to experience greatness, and this is the latest in a long line of connections between the dominant football brands in our state that start with the earliest days of the NFL with Halas and Grange, and stretch through Butkus, Caroline, and many other former Illini through the decades.”

Illinois last played at Soldier Field in 2013, when it fell to Washington.

The Illini went 6-7 in 2014, falling in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.