NIU closer to holding IHSA football finals

By Reggie Brown

DeKalb and NIU have submitted a bid to the Illinois High School Association to host the state football championships.

The state football finals have been held at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for the past 5 years.

The current contract between the IHSA and the University of Illinois expires after this year’s finals on Nov. 25 and 26.

“We are not unhappy with the University of Illinois,” said Dave Gannaway, assistant executive director of the IHSA. “We are pleased with how they have handled the games, it’s just time to bid.”

DeKalb, along with U of I, is among two finalists to host the games for the next five years.

City officials are trying to make it a community effort.

“I think that we have a lot to offer,” said Heather Crichton, coordinator for the DeKalb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau on Lincoln Highway. “We are getting the community involved; we have a great facility, great location and we are rolling out the red carpet.”

DeKalb High School’s head varsity football coach Dan Jones expressed similar sentiment.

“DeKalb is proud of the fact that we are a community that can be a great host,” Jones said.

DeKalb made a bid to host the games in 2000 but lost to U of I partly because the city was not as well established as they would have liked to have been.

“Five years ago we didn’t have a convention and business bureau,” Crichton said. “Since then we have developed a ‘communiversity’ and now there is a brand new group of people working together to achieve a common goal.”

DeKalb has been persistent in its attempt to bring the games because of the value hosting the games holds. IHSA football has a rich tradition and to bring something this big to DeKalb would be monumental.

“Our big reason for wanting the games is intrinsic value,” Crichton said. “We are talking about state football championships and the idea that they would be coming here is phenomenal. The games would bring tradition to DeKalb and also provide exposure for the university, its athletic department and the facilities.”

In addition to bringing exposure to the city and the university, the games would shine light on the businesses and culture of DeKalb.

“We would be able to showcase what DeKalb and Sycamore have to offer,” Jones said.

Value is a major component in whether or not DeKalb would be able to host the games.

Hosting an event the magnitude of IHSA football championships is going to cost money, but Crichton said most of the money needed to host the games will be raised through sponsorships.

Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois seats close to 70,000 while Huskie Stadium seats a little more than 30,000. The discrepancy in the size of facilities is not expected to play a major role in the selection process.

“That’s enough seats to host a state championship game,” Gannaway said.

Staffing for the games would be the same as any regular Friday night game, complete with concession stands and booths to purchase participating schools’ merchandise.

If DeKalb receives the bid from the IHSA to host the games, it will not be first time DeKalb has hosted a state championship. DeKalb hosts the state team wrestling finals, elementary wrestling championships and has hosted state swimming championships.

DeKalb has received the approval of attendees of these competitions that have seen the facilities first-hand.

“People who have been here for these competitions have been very pleased with the facilities,” Jones said.

The final selection for the host of the 2006-2010 state football championships will take place after the football championships this year and will not be announced until after the February IHSA board meetings at the earliest.