A family friendly guide to Chicago college football


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

  • City: DeKalb
  • Conference: Mid-American
  • Home: Huskie Stadium, 1245 Stadium Drive South, DeKalb
  • Tickets: $15-$30 (excluding Sept. 1); for information visit niuhuskies.com or call (815) 752-6800.

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

  • City: Champaign
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Home: Memorial Stadium, 1402 South 1st St., Champaign
  • Tickets: $25-$60; for information visit
  • fightingillini.com, or call (866)-ILLINI-I.

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 nation.

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 American flag.

Tickets for the three non-conference games start at $25.


Northwestern Wildcats

  • City: Evanston
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Home: Ryan Field, 1501 Central St., Evanston
  • Tickets: $20-$70; for information visit
  • nusports.com, call (888) 467-8775, or e-mail
  • cat-tix@northwestern.edu.

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.

Kids Eat Chicago

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