Northern Illinois raised a few eyebrows a few weeks ago when word came out that they had added a trip to Florida State to their 2018 schedule.
The 2013 Orange Bowl rematch from the days of the BCS was notable not only for the two schools participating in it but because it added to the Huskies’ absolutely loaded non-conference slate even more. In 2018 alone, the program will take trips to Tallahassee as well as Iowa and BYU. The Huskies will sandwich a lone home non-conference game with Utah in there as well.
As it turns out though, the MAC program had a rather unique impetus to adding the Seminoles to their schedule: state budget cuts.
“A $1.6 million infusion (from the FSU game) saved a lot of jobs and a lot of heartbreak in our department,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told FoxSports.com. “Our football staff stepped up and were a team player.”
The school has been on the wrong end of political issues in the state of Illinois that have led to huge cuts across higher education. That has trickled down to affect athletics and resulted in the need for a few “paycheck” games for one of the annual contenders in the MAC. Frazier did note that he was going to be upgrading the Huskies’ football schedule either way because of changes in the College Football Playoff, but even he would be the first to admit that 2018 is even tougher than it should be because of the financial need to schedule somebody like Florida State.
Safe to say that Northern Illinois will open next season with the most difficult schedule in the country as a result of all that maneuvering. The flip side is the benefits from games like the one at FSU will go a long ways toward keeping the athletic department running much smoother down in DeKalb.