The key question about Utah at Northern Illinois: Why is this game being played? Explanations do exist.

The key question about Utah at Northern Illinois: Why is this game being played? Explanations do exist.

Throughout their faculty careers, the present sophomores and juniors in Utah’s soccer program will make two visits to Husky Stadium, the long-lasting venue in Seattle with 70,000 seats and a view of Lake Washington.

In between, they’ll play in 23,595-seat Huskie Stadium, the smallest facility to host a Ute soccer sport in 40 years.

Utah’s journey to Northern Illinois for Saturday night time’s sport, televised by ESPNews, will not be the weirdest matchup in faculty soccer this month. Arkansas’ go to to Colorado State and Miami’s sport at Toledo high Utah-NIU for that distinction, amongst a dozen circumstances of Group of 5 colleges internet hosting Energy 5 applications.

Most of these pairings both have regional taste or recruiting-based motivation, similar to Indiana at Florida Worldwide. The Utes don’t recruit soccer gamers within the Midwest, the place the late Rick Majerus scheduled the likes of lowly Chicago State to reward his Ute basketball gamers from the world.

So how did this occur? The reason has one thing to do with Utah State, the place Utah performed in a 20,000-seat venue in 1978, simply previous to the growth of then-Romney Stadium. The reply additionally entails $1 million or extra, the price of shopping for a house sport in as we speak’s market versus reserving a home-and-home sequence. The Utes have performed sequence with Fresno State and San Jose State on this decade and have two-game units in opposition to Wyoming, San Diego State and Houston in 2020 and past.

Utah’s 2026 journey to Houston is a great distance off, however presumably can have recruiting deserves in Texas, as will a sequence with Baylor in ’23 and ’24. Requested in regards to the worth of this week’s sport, Ute coach Kyle Whittingham stated, “Don’t ask me. I don’t know. I didn’t schedule that. They present me who we play, and I say, ‘OK, right here we go.’ … It’s out of our recruiting footprint.”

The timing of the Utah-NIU contract makes Whittingham’s story believable, even when it appears illogical for him to don’t have any position in scheduling. As of July 2014, coming off two 5-7 seasons and having his employees’s efficiency scrutinized by former athletic director Chris Hill, Whittingham seemingly was much less involved about whom the Utes would play in 2018 and ’19.

After Thursday’s season-opening win over Weber State, Whittingham stated of his staff’s subsequent opponent, “Initially, video games aren’t simple to get. It’s not like there’s tons of video games on the market to pick from. Typically you get in a state of affairs the place the alternatives are only a few. So I’m not complaining about it. We’ll simply go play. But it surely’s curious.”

At this level, it’s simple to image individuals in Logan waving their arms and saying, “Hey, up right here!”

BIG FISH OUT OF WATERSelected soccer video games in 2018 sending Energy 5 colleges to Group of 5 campuses:Arkansas at Colorado State. Utah at Northern Illinois.Maryland at Bowling Inexperienced. Kansas at Central Michigan. Miami at Toledo. Wake Forest at Tulane. Georgia Tech at South Florida. Oregon State at Nevada. Washington State at Wyoming. Arizona at Houston.

Hill, who retired in Could after 31 years on the job, recurrently defended his determination to maneuver away from scheduling USU. In 2015, he cited the in-state sequence with BYU as enough. “There’s no different staff within the nation that has two very aggressive FBS rivals that it’s anticipated to play yearly,” Hill stated.

That remark got here comparatively quickly after the Utes misplaced in Logan in 2012 (this system’s solely nonconference defeat within the Pac-12 period) and have been almost upset at house the subsequent 12 months. In his A-B-C define for nonconference scheduling, Hill got here to view the Aggies as an “A” opponent, he stated.

As a“B” opponent, NIU has good Group of 5 credentials. The Huskies have performed in a New 12 months’s Six sport extra not too long ago than Utah, for example. Hill’s reserving of NIU got here the identical summer time when the Huskies agreed to a two-game sequence with BYU, which means they’ll play in Provo in October and in Salt Lake Metropolis subsequent September (the return sport vs. BYU is in 2020).

So the Utes will play 60 miles west of Chicago in DeKalb. Transforming has lowered Huskie Stadium’s capability to 23,595. Even so, Utah-NIU is much less of an outlier than it might appear. Energy 5 member Boston School visited NIU final season and different Mid-American Convention colleges this 12 months will host Maryland, Kansas and Miami. South Florida, a Group of 5 college the place Ute athletic director Mark Harlan previously labored, began a home-and-home sequence with NIU in 2016.

Such contracts are gaining popularity, now that the price of shopping for house video games is so excessive. NIU obtained $1 million for Saturday’s opener at Iowa, a 33-7 loss. The Huskies will get $1.6 million for enjoying at Florida State later this month. USU earned $1.four million Friday for its 38-31 loss at Michigan State.

This week’s journey marks the Utes’ solely nonconference highway sport of 2018, after they play 4 Pac-12 video games at house and 5 on the highway. Utah is amongst eight (of 65) Energy 5 colleges with six true highway video games this season, in keeping with The Related Press.

The Utes performed seven house video games in 2013, ’15 and ’17 and can accomplish that once more subsequent 12 months, when NIU involves city.

UTAH AT NORTHERN ILLINOISWhen • Saturday, four:30 p.m. MDTTV • ESPNews

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