Illinois hosts Middle Tennessee State in the final game before the start of Big Ten play on Oct. 26.
It's expected to be a win for the Illini, but whatever happens, it's definitely going to cost them.
According to a report from the Daily News Journal, Illinois is paying Middle Tennessee State $950,000 to come to Champaign and play that game.
If it seems like a lot of money, it's because it is. But it's certainly not a rarity. Nearly every big school does this annually, paying a large sum of money to a small school to travel across the country for what is usually an easy win for the home team. In fact, the trip to Champaign won't be Middle Tennessee State's only payday this season. The school's athletics department is getting even more dough for a trip to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama. That game will cost the Crimson Tide a whopping $1.5 million.
Now, where it gets tricky is if the home team ends up struggling against the team its paying a large amount of money to play. That also happens every year.
The Illini have had a few close calls in non-conference games against small schools over the past couple seasons. Last season, it took fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. The year before, Illinois only defeated Southern Illinois by eight.
But, this wouldn't keep happening if not for the enormous benefit the payment provides for the smaller schools. Here's Middle Tennessee State athletics director Chris Massaro in the Daily News Journal piece:
"It will be spread across our entire budget," Massaro told the paper. "It helps all of our sports. With rising higher (education) costs and tuition increases we've had the last three or four years, this helps buffer some of that. With some of the autonomy legislation, it's driven up some of our costs. Health-care issues have driven up our cost."
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So though it costs the big schools a pretty penny, it's a big deal for the small schools.
The big schools better hope, though, that they don't end up with losses both in the bank account and on the scoreboard.