CHICAGO – Saying he believed Northern Illinois was “on the 5-yard-line” for completing fundraising for the $9.5-million Chessick Practice Center, athletic director Jeff Compher announced at Tuesday’s football Chicago media day that NIU had raised about $9 million for the center.
Construction could start by the end of August, Compher told the Daily Chronicle.
“What I was last told was end of August. I always look at it as give or take 30 days, probably more or less take 30 days,” Compher said, making a September start a realistic possibility.
Compher said fundraising has gone as scheduled, and 27 donors have given $50,000 or more to the 80,000-plus square foot building project, while there have been a total of 133 donors.
The Daily Chronicle reported in April that the university had raised $8.7 million to that point. The building is scheduled to open in time for the 2013 football season.
Ticket update: Ticket sales are improved over last year’s Soldier Field game with Wisconsin for this year’s game between the Huskies and Iowa, set for Sept. 1 in Chicago.
Compher said the game is 13,000 tickets sold ahead of this time last year, and close to 40,000 total. The NIU athletic director didn’t rule out that the game could be a sellout.
“We’re starting to see it pick up again,” Compher said. “We’re doing some additional marking efforts – commercials, email blasts. Everybody stands to benefit. That’s the great thing about this arrangement, and why we prefer to do it this way with a partner.”
NIU received about $850,000 in revenue from the Solider Field contest last year. This year, NIU will get the first $1 million in ticket revenue from the Chicago game.
Future scheduling: A proposed Big Ten-Pac 12 alliance that would have seen annual matchups between the two power conferences starting in 2017 fizzled out in mid-July had an affect on non-conference scheduling, Compher said.
“That put things on hold for a while as far as scheduling options,” Compher said. “I still think there are some lingering effects of that. We were kind of stalled.”
Compher said he anticipates announcing some additional future games in the next few months, but that the basic philosophy of scheduling two guaranteed payment/neutral site games, an FCS team at home and a home-and-home with another team hasn’t changed with playoffs coming to college football in 2014.
Payton an idol for Daniels: When NIU drove to Soldier Field on Tuesday, the first person that junior running back Akeem Daniels thought of was former Bears great Walter Payton.
“I could truly say he was the first running back I looked up to in the Pop Warner days,” Daniels said. “I wore No. 34, I switched over to 3 now, but I’ve looked at a lot of film of him, how quick and how motivated he was when he ran with it.”
With the Huskies scheduled to start the 2012 season at the same place Payton once dazzled Chicago crowds, Daniels said he’s focused on his job this season.
“I’m not coming here to just look at all the history and watch all the fans and everything,” Daniels said. “I’m coming here to make a statement.”