In a move that has people talking, some positively and some not as much, North Carolina has announced that it will have a home and home football series with Illinois for the 2015 & 2016 seasons. From the official web site of UNC Athletics this was said by the Athletic Director…
“Coach Fedora and I have been in discussions for several months about our future non-conference football opponents. We both felt Illinois would be an attractive matchup for both schools and would be a tremendous experience and opportunity for our student-athletes, staff and fans,” said North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham. “This series is an opportunity to bring a quality Big Ten program to Chapel Hill, while also providing a unique travel experience for our student-athletes.”
UNC Football has met this opponent just twice, both victories for the Tar Heels, a 27-0 win in Champaign in 1971 and a 34-14 victory in Chapel Hill in 1987. For Carolina this will be the first time they face a Big 10 opponent since 2005, when they lost 14-5 to Wisconsin in the friendly confines of Kenan Stadium.
If you read the article on GoHeels.com you will see that Carolina has also shored up its 2014 out of conference opponents with Liberty and San Diego State coming to Chapel Hill during the first part of the season. Neither have these opponents have much of a history with the UNC Football program.
And while that is also news, I want to focus a bit more about the home and home with Illinois, as I think there could be more to that than just two games for the Heels. Next season UNC Football will face Notre Dame, then the following year they will once again have South Carolina on their schedule and in 2016 they already have Illinois penciled in.
With conference realignment always on the horizon, with the program willingness to try and make that next step towards being a stronger program, being able to work in some teams from the Fighting Illini’s conference, such as Michigan, MSU, OSU and Penn State, would definitely not be a bad idea.
It’s going to take time, that is for sure, as schedules are made far in advance, but imagine a season where the Tar Heels could face South Carolina, East Carolina, Michigan and Notre Dame. Then add to the mix conference foes such a Georgia Tech and Miami to mix in with Duke and N.C. State and you have a heck of a schedule. If you do not think that could entice big time recruits to come to Chapel Hill, then I don’t know if anything could really do it. Sure, there needs to be wins in there, that is a given. On the other hand you can not get victories against big time programs if you do not play them.
Illinois might not be the match up that the fan base wanted, but if down the road it’s the game that gets UNC Football into having some other match ups with the Big Ten, then it was all worth it.