CARBONDALE — The SIU football team jumped back into the fall season Monday, announcing a home game with regional rival Southeast Missouri State that will be played Friday, Oct. 23, at Saluki Stadium.
Separated by just over 49 miles, the two programs were supposed to play in Carbondale on Sept. 19 but called the game off in August. SIU's conference, the Missouri Valley Football Conference, postponed its fall league schedule to the spring, and the Redhawks' conference, the Ohio Valley, postponed their league schedule soon after. Both teams were allowed to play a certain amount of non-conference games, and kept discussing an opportunity to play since they were less than an hour apart and would have a chance to drive up, play, and drive back to their respective campuses.
"We're so excited to bring football back this fall for our players, staff and fans," SIU athletic director Liz Jarnigan said in a statement from the Salukis. "There have been challenges along the way, but I'm confident in the processes we have in place that we can have a safe and enjoyable evening on Oct. 23rd."
SIU coach Nick Hill, who played for SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz during his career at SIU, said a fall matchup with the Redhawks was the right fit for both programs.
"If we were going to play any game this fall, we were going to play SEMO," Hill said. "The rivalry, the uniqueness of two Division I schools with the histories of both programs that are 45 minutes away from each other. A lot of the uncertainty of these times is travel, staying in hotels, getting on planes."
SEMO will, in fact, drive to Carbondale on the day of the game and return the same night.
"This is a tremendous rivalry and I'm excited we get to play this game," SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz said in a statement from the Redhawks. "There is so much history in this series and both fan bases look forward to this matchup every year. People are starving for football and we're confident in the protocols we have in place to make a safe return to play."
Saluki Athletics is working on a reduced-capacity seating plan and other measures that could allow season-ticket holders and students to attend the game. Details will be announced at a later date.
SEMO leads the series against SIU 42-37-8, and kept the rivalry's wheel trophy for the second straight year after defeating the Salukis last fall, 44-26, in Cape Girardeau. The series, which dates back to 1909, when the teams crossed the Mississippi River by boat to compete, is the longest the Salukis have with another opponent, conference or non-conference.
On Twitter: @THefferman
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