Will the finals of the 2013 state football playoff be conducted at Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Toyota Park or Northwestern?
The question was raised when the University of Illinois, host to the state finals since 1999, informed the Illinois High School Association that, beginning in 2013, an every-other-year conflict in Big 10 scheduling will force the finals to be played at a different venue.
The championship games were first played at Illinois State's Hancock Stadium in 1974. From 1981 to 1984, the finals in the two largest classes at the time, 5A and 6A, were moved to Northwestern's Dyche Stadium. They returned to ISU in 1985, then moved to Illinois' Memorial Stadium in Champaign in 1999.
"We wouldn't have left ISU but we were asked to leave," Hickman said. "They thought they would be hosting playoff games in their division but it never happened. In fact, I think our situation at Illinois helped ISU to accelerate its plans to renovate and expand its stadium."
Hickman said the deadline for filing proposals is early April. He said he expects proposals from ISU, NIU and Southern Illinois. He said he "wouldn't be surprised" to see a bid from Toyota Park in Chicago, home of the Chicago Fire soccer team. The IHSA will make a decision in June. And Northwestern might make a proposal if the IHSA agreed to split the playoff as it did in 1981-84.
"If I had my choice, I would keep going to Illinois," Hickman said. "We have gotten spoiled with the renovations and facilities and accommodations and the convenience for parking. But, wherever we end up, it will be great."
To meet specifications to host the state finals, sites must agree to a five-year contract (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021), have seating for at least 12,000, artificial turf and lights.