Editorial: Enjoy Soldier Field for its exposure

When athletics director Jim Phillips started to ponder the idea of NIU football playing a game at Soldier Field his eyes likely lit up.

The costs for travel and stadium rent, among other expenses, would be an investment. Then, ideally, the university could reap positive benefits for years to come.

And that is what the game is about – exposure. Not just for NIU football, but for the entire school.

The fact is that DeKalb isn’t a big city and the Huskies aren’t a huge draw. For the rest of the nation, NIU is merely another directional school in Illinois.

But Eastern, Southern and Western won’t be on TV playing at Soldier Field on Saturday.

While Wisconsin is coming to DeKalb in 2009, it’s extremely hard to attract Big Ten teams to Huskie Stadium. A Soldier Field game could be used as bait to attract big-name teams to DeKalb.

NIU now has some leverage when pleading with teams to play us locally.

NIU could play MAC teams or others in the area, but getting Big Ten games is paramount to the football program’s growth. They’re local and vastly better than any other teams NIU could attract.

When a team plays good teams, they are challenged and they improve, even during a one-sided loss. A strong schedule leads to higher rankings, more talented recruits and the admiration of the Chicago fans that NIU so desires.

An easy way for a university to gain more exposure, academically and otherwise, is through athletics.

Look at some of the top athletic programs and there will be top academics. Good athletics translates into more students wanting to attend the university, which could translate into more donations. Those donations translate into better facilities.

It may be easy to be question why NIU’s Huskie Stadium, with the new Yordon Center, isn’t good enough to host this game, but remember that this could lead to some huge games at NIU in the future.