Huskies ready for Illinois State visit for programs’ 57th meeting

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Head coach Thomas Hammock addresses the team during Spring football practice.

James Krause

DeKALB — First-year students at NIU might not have been born when the football team last faced the Illinois State University Redbirds in 2000.

The Huskies will meet the Football Championship Subdivision title-contending Redbirds on Saturday at Huskie Stadium for the 57th time, the most common opponent in NIU football history. 

NIU Athletic Director Sean Fraizer said the nearly two decades of time between games was not intentional.

“I wasn’t even aware it was that many years to be perfectly honest,” Fraizer said. “When someone told me it was that length of time I was shocked.”

With games in recent years scheduled against Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois, Fraizer said bringing in-state rivals to DeKalb is something he’d like to see more of in the future.

“The scheduling philosophy I talk about all the time is that the in-state FCS teams are some of the best in the country,” Fraizer said. “After the state budget impasse, we talked about getting our fans and fan base engaged in that process. I think it’s the right thing to do to schedule ISU, WIU, EIU and others.”

NIU leads the all-time series with 25 wins, 22 losses and nine ties. While the first meeting may have been in 1906, their connected history came from the start of NIU’s football program.

The man responsible for starting what was then the Northern Illinois State Normal School football program in 1899 was John Keith, a graduate of what was then known as Illinois State Normal University in Normal, Illinois.

NIU won the first meeting of the Illinois schools in 1906, but lost to the Redbirds in 1907. The head coach that beat NIU that day? Keith, the man who started NIU’s football program.

Huskie Stadium itself opened on Nov. 6, 1965 in a 48-6 win over the ISU Redbirds, which also was the first NIU football game broadcasted on television through WREX in Rockford.

The last time the Huskies met the Redbirds, now head football coach Thomas Hammock ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-0 win. Hammock wasn’t born yet the last time the Redbirds beat the Huskies in 1980.