The recent expansion of the Big Ten Conference will impact the location of the IHSA Football State Championship games beginning in 2013. The IHSA Football State Finals have been contested at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Thanksgiving weekend every season since 1999, but will be played at a different venue in odd year seasons beginning in 2013. The Big Ten Conference expanded from 11 to 12 institutions in June and will begin playing conference games each season on Thanksgiving weekend beginning in 2013. The University of Illinois’ Thanksgiving weekend schedule will rotate from home to away annually, allowing the IHSA to continue to play at Memorial Stadium in even years.
“We are certainly disappointed, but very understanding,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “The University of Illinois has given us a world-class facility in Memorial Stadium to contest our state finals and the entire Champaign-Urbana community has offered a first-class atmosphere for the competing schools and fans. We look forward to returning the IHSA Football State Finals to Memorial Stadium every other year and will begin to investigate other potential sites to host the finals in the years that the University of Illinois is unable to host.”
The inaugural IHSA football state title games were played at Hancock Stadium on the Illinois State University campus in Normal in 1974. The contests were played there every year until 1999, when a conflict with a home Illinois State football playoff game led the IHSA to move the contests to Champaign. The hosting contract with Illinois State expired after the 1999 title games and the University of Illinois was awarded the future hosting duties later that school year. The lone exception was during a four-year stretch from 1981 to 1984, when the Class 1A-4A games were played at Hancock Stadium and the 5A and 6A contests unfolded at Northwestern University’s Dyche Stadium (currently Ryan Field) in Evanston.
"The expansion of the Big Ten Conference to 12 institutions and the championship game has created new challenges for events such as the IHSA State Football Championship games played at Memorial Stadium for the past 12 years," said Illinois Director of Athletics Ron Guenther. "The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and the IHSA are working together to provide a solution that would allow the games to continue at an outstanding venue in the years that the University of Illinois is unable to host."