(CBS) Northern Illinois announced Wednesday that it will play Toledo in a football game at U.S. Cellular Field this fall, and the “Huskie Chi-Town Showdown” has athletic director Sean Frazier ecstatic over bringing his Huskies further into the national spotlight and closer to an alumni base that numbers around 145,000 in the Chicagoland.
The contest is set for Wednesday, Nov. 9 and will be televised by ESPN, Frazier said. Midweek MAC games have become a staple on ESPN and are known as “MACtion” because of their often entertaining, high-scoring back-and-forth contests.
“This is one heck of a venue,” Frazier said. “It’s going to be a fantastic contest. This facility is off the chain.
“It’s about that footprint that’s so key for our alumni base.
“This is tremendous. This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes, our fan base, our institution. It’s the right fit.”
Northern Illinois has played at Soldier Field before, including in 2012 against Iowa, but playing in a baseball stadium has its own charm and will generate interest in a new way. It will be the first football game played at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox.
U.S. Cellular Field has been getting some spiffy upgrades this offseason, most notably new state-of-the-art video boards.
Frazier believes U.S. Cellular Field will hold between 40,000 to 42,000 for a football game.
“We’d like to fill the thing up,” Frazier said. “Why not?”
Northern Illinois and Toledo have sat atop the MAC West each of the past two seasons, so it’s a game that could carry big conference title implications.
The logistics of the contest will be like a traditional football game, Frazier said. Notably, the teams will play both ways, unlike the Illinois-Northwestern matchup in 2010 at Wrigley Field in which only one end zone could be used because of safety concerns at the other end with the outfield wall being too close to the end zone.
“I’m a football purist,” Frazier said. “We’re not going to do anything half-size. We’re going to do it the right way.”