College football is as much a part of fall as raking leaves and picking out the perfect pumpkin. Chicago area fans are fortunate to have three teams-Northwestern, Illinois and Northern Illinois-within a (long) Hail Mary pass of the city limits. However, football is not just for the men of the house; these three schools have made spending a Saturday on the gridiron a true family experience
Northern Illinois Huskies
The reigning MAC champion Huskies enter the 2012 season
riding a nine-game winning streak-the longest active run in the
FBS. Glenview resident Sean Progar ranks among the top defensive
linemen in the nation.
Fans of all ages can enjoy the free pregame fan fest
located just west of the stadium that includes inflatables, a visit
from the cheerleaders and a new theme for each Saturday home game.
Kids 2 and younger are free to all games on campus. For $35,
eighth-graders and younger can join the NIU pup club. Membership
includes free admission to all regular season home athletic events,
a membership card, a T-shirt and more.
For $60 per person, fans can buy a Huskieland Plan, which
includes a ticket to three pre-determined home games, a $15 gift
card to each of the program's three participating sponsors and
reserved seating in the special Huskieland section.
Illinois Fighting Illini
With new head coach Tim Beckman looking to help the Illini
build on back-to-back bowl victories, there is plenty of optimism
downstate. Senior Michael Buchanan, a resident of Homewood, is
considered to be one of the top defensive linemen in the
Located just west of the stadium, the free Illini Street
Fest is one of the school's most popular game day traditions. The
event includes family-oriented interactive inflatable games and
sports activities, plus live entertainment and more. Sept. 15
is Salute to Ag Day, where fans of all ages can enjoy interactive
activities and displays relating to Illinois agriculture. There
will be postgame fireworks Sept. 22. On Nov. 10, the Illini will
honor the nation's military with the first 10,000 fans receiving an
Tickets for the three non-conference games start at
Self-proclaimed as ™Chicago's Big Ten team,∫ the Wildcats
have been to three straight bowl games and seven since the start of
the 2000 season. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is a local product from
Orland Park who played for Northwestern from 1993-96, twice earning
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Three hours before kickoff, adults and children alike can
enjoy the festive and free Wildcat Alley, featuring face painting,
inflatable games, food and drink to buy, plus appearances by the
school's marching band along with current and past Northwestern
athletes. Eighth-graders and younger receive a certificate if
attending their first Northwestern game. Fans can join the school
band, cheerleaders and Willie the Wildcat in greeting the team when
it arrives to the field 2 ½ hours before kickoff.
Fans can buy a $10 lap ticket for children 2 and younger.
Available only on game days.