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TAKING IT BACK TO THE FOOTBALL FIELD:
MIZZOU AND ILLINOIS AGREE TO FOUR-YEAR FOOTBALL SERIES IN ST. LOUIS
FIRST GAME SET FOR 2007
ST. LOUIS – Aug. 25, 2005 – Apparently their original two-year series in St. Louis was just an appetizer. Now a main course – or steady dose – of Missouri-Illinois Football is about to be served in St. Louis.
The University of Missouri and University of Illinois have reached a four-year agreement to play football at the Edward Jones Dome beginning in 2007. As part of the deal completed with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission and the St. Louis Sports Commission, the parties also have the option to negotiate a two-year extension following the 2008 game. So the Tigers and Illini are assured of meeting annually in the Gateway City through 2010; through 2012 with the extension; and perhaps well beyond if organizers get their wish.
“It is extremely rare to have an incremental sporting event of this stature added to a community's annual sports calendar,” said Jack Croghan, director of sports and development for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission (CVC). Croghan negotiated the deal with the universities. He added, “The event delivers visitors, revenue to the Edward Jones Dome and television exposure for St. Louis. That's the power of this event to me.”
“We're looking forward to welcoming visitors to St. Louis for this annual event,” said CVC President Carole Moody. “There's nothing like the atmosphere of a college football game and if you add St. Louis' great hotels, restaurants, attractions and nightlife to the mix, you create a very exciting weekend on the calendar each year for visitors and residents alike. With a connected, walk-able downtown setup, St. Louis has become a premier destination for major sporting events, and we're thrilled college football fans will be able to experience all that our region offers on an annual basis.”
The dates for the Missouri-Illinois Football Series in St. Louis are Sept. 1, 2007; Aug. 30, 2008; Sept. 5, 2009; and Sept. 4, 2010. The games will serve as the teams' season opener and will take place during Labor Day weekend – similar to when the Tigers and Illini played in St. Louis in 2002 and 2003. For those games, the extended weekend and surrounding activities contributed to a bowl-like environment. Not only do organizers see that unique atmosphere returning, they have even grander visions for the series.
“It's absolutely wonderful to have a long-term commitment from the schools, which gives us the chance to build this series into something very special,” said Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission. “With Missouri-Illinois Football now an annual occurrence, the series can be a key part of the city's effort to create special events and ultimately play a role in the rebirth of Downtown. We salute our colleagues at Mizzou and Illinois, including athletic directors Ron Guenther and Mike Alden, for continuing a great partnership.”
"We're very excited to renew this series in football with the University of Missouri," said Ron Guenther, University of Illinois director of athletics. "We are especially excited about the games being played in St. Louis with a great facility and expect this to be a spectacular event comparable with our annual men's basketball game against the Tigers each December. We would like to thank the St. Louis Sports Commission and Jack Croghan for their desire and assistance in making this possible."
University of Missouri Director of Athletics Mike Alden said, “We're very pleased to announce this agreement. Mizzou and Illinois enjoy such a passionate and competitive rivalry that I believe represents the best in college athletics. We're looking forward to bringing this event back to the great city of St. Louis.”
The NCAA's decision earlier this year to allow Division I-A teams to play 12 regular season football games beginning in 2006 paved the way for the Missouri-Illinois Football Series to be rekindled. The rule was also in effect in 2002 and 2003, when the Tigers and Illini met in St. Louis for the first time since 1969. Behind freshman quarterback Brad Smith's 138 yards rushing and 152 yards passing, Mizzou defeated Illinois 33-20 in the 2002 game. One year later, the Tigers pulled off a 22-15 come-from-behind victory. Both games were televised by ABC and both drew more than 60,000 fans with 61,876 in attendance in 2002 and 63,576 filling the Edward Jones Dome in 2003. Capacity at the Dome is 66,000.
“This is a great series for our program and just as important for our fans,” Mizzou head football coach Gary Pinkel said. “I was very impressed with the atmosphere in St. Louis when we played this game previously. It was a big-time atmosphere that was an unforgettable experience for everyone in our program.”
Illinois head football coach Ron Zook said, “There's nothing like rivalries in college football to create excitement for both the fans and players. And from what I understand this game against Missouri in St. Louis does just that. I had the opportunity to see Illini fans come out in droves in St. Louis during the Final Four. We hope to see that same electricity beginning in 2007."
Ticket information and kickoff times for the Missouri-Illinois Football Series will be announced at a later date. Businesses and individuals interested in sponsorship opportunities can call the Sports Commission at 314-992-0683. The Sports Commission and the CVC will share game marketing and management responsibilities. The CVC operates the Edward Jones Dome. Both organizations were part of the St. Louis Organizing Committee for the 2005 NCAA Final Four.
“The Edward Jones Dome was built to such flexible standards so we could have the opportunity to host a special event like this,” Moody said. “Throughout the year the Dome handles conventions and tradeshows and Rams football, plus sporting events such as the NCAA basketball Regionals and Final Four. Now with the Missouri-Illinois Football Series, the facility's schedule is even more impressive.”