IHSA approves football venue change, disabilities program
By Mike Clark firstname.lastname@example.org June 11, 2012 10:38PM
Northern Illinois University will host the high school football finals starting next year, alternating every other year with the University of Illinois in Champaign. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2012 12:11PM
Prep football fans from the Chicago area won’t have to go as far to see the state finals beginning in 2013 — at least in odd-numbered years.
The IHSA on Monday approved Northern Illinois University’s bid to host the eight football title games in in DeKalb in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021. The games will remain at the University of Illinois in Champaign in even-numbered years.
But an alternate site was needed for the other years because the Fighting Illini now will be hosting home games on Thanksgiving weekend every other year.
The other bidders were Illinois State University in Normal and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
“I’m surprised,” said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch, whose team has played in five state finals in Champaign since 2006. “I thought ISU had that locked up.”
IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said in a statement that all three bids were solid. But he cited one factor in favor of NIU: More than 100 athletic directors from IHSA schools signed on to support the Huskies’ bid.
“It went a long way to showing us how much it meant to the entire region to have the state championships played there,” Hickman said in the statement. “Ultimately, all three football bids were extremely strong and almost interchangeable.”
Illinois State hosted the football finals from the beginning of the state series in 1974 to 1998 (Northwestern University hosted the two biggest classes from 1981 to ‘84). The games have been at Illinois since 1999.
Hickman said splitting the finals into two venues was considered, but rejected because of logistical hurdles. And SIU’s bid was less attractive because of the travel factor for Chicago-area teams.
IHSA approves disablities program
Also Monday, the IHSA announced a state finals pilot program in cross country, bowling, swimming and diving, and track and field for student-athletes with disabilities. The announcement came less than a month after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the organization to allow disabled athletes to compete in swimming and track events.
The program will begin in the 2012-13 school year, according to an IHSA release, with the aims of allowing the IHSA to evaluate interest and participation levels among student-athletes with disabilities while affording those athletes the chance to “compete in parallel events at IHSA state finals.”
“By piloting separate, high-profile events for our student-athletes with disabilities, we hope to spur more interest statewide,” Hickman added. “As more and more student-athletes participate in our programs, and as they start to do so at younger ages, the level of competition naturally rises, giving way to more meaningful experiences for our athletes.”