NORMAL — The last time, 56,304 gathered at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. It was — and still is — the biggest crowd to witness an Illinois State football game.
After Division I-A University of Illinois and Division I-AA ISU renewed a long dormant rivalry in 2003, the Illini and Redbirds have agreed on another contest.
ISU will return to Memorial Stadium to meet Illinois on Sept. 12, 2009, it was announced Thursday.
"It's something we really appreciate the opportunity to go do," Redbirds' coach Denver Johnson said. "It's good for our institution. You are known by the company you keep. It's good for our in-state kids to play the University of Illinois."
Illinois defeated ISU, 49-22, in 2003. The Illini will take on Western Illinois, another Gateway Conference member, in 2007.
"There is a big, big upside to this. I hope the U of I realizes a benefit to it as well," said Johnson. "We were very optimistic it could work out, and we're pleased that it has."
After meeting Iowa State of the Big 12 Conference in 2005, ISU will face Big 12 members Kansas State in 2006 and Missouri in 2007.
The Redbirds, who have received at least $200,000 for its most recent I-A games, have yet to secure a I-A opponent for 2008.
ISU's guarantee for the 2009 Illinois game was not available Thursday.