Northern Illinois University is giving free Orange Bowl tickets to students who make the trip to Miami for the Jan. 1 game against Florida State.
Northern Illinois (12-1) will be the first school from the Mid-American Conference to play in one of college football’s Bowl Championship Series games. The Huskies averaged 15,760 fans for their six home games this season in DeKalb, Illinois, and receive an allotment of 17,500 tickets for the bowl game, with prices ranging from $75 to $225.
The Seminoles (11-2) had an average home attendance of 75,601 for their seven home games in Tallahassee, Florida.
Northern Illinois, with an enrollment of 22,000, is allowing students to reserve one free Orange Bowl ticket each, to be picked up in Miami on game day. The school is also offering fan and student bus packages for the 1,400-mile trip from its campus in DeKalb, about 65 miles west of Chicago.
“I am confident our fans and alumni will respond with a great presence in Miami for this game,” Northern Illinois Athletic Director Jeff Compher said in a statement.
The Huskies are playing in a bowl game for the fifth straight season and have offered free tickets to students for each one, the Chicago Tribune said, quoting Donna Turner, the school’s sports information director.
Sun Life Stadium in Miami has a capacity of 75,000 and the attendance for last season’s Orange Bowl, when West Virginia routed Clemson 70-33, was 67,563.
Appearing in a BCS bowl game is a significant step up for Northern Illinois, which last year played Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, before a crowd of 38,734.
The financial rewards for the MAC and all its members are bigger, too. The BCS pays $28.2 million to be divided among the MAC and four other conferences without automatic berths -- Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic. This year’s GoDaddy.com Bowl pays $750,000 to each participating school’s conference.
The Huskies (12-1) are the first team from a conference without an automatic qualifier berth to get in a BCS bowl game and not be undefeated. Northern Illinois is a 14-point underdog against Florida State, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.