In an abbreviated conclusion, Northern Illinois' "SchedulePalooza Encore" wrapped up Friday with the announcement of a home-and-home series with the South Florida Bulls. The series will begin in Tampa in 2016 and finish in DeKalb in 2017.
USF was teased on Wednesday by NIU's social media outlets, but something occurred late behind the scenes that prevented the announcement from happening until the end of the week. The Bulls join Tulsa and Vanderbilt in last week's schedule releases by NIU athletic director Sean T. Frazier.
These two have met three times before, most recently in the 2010 International Bowl in Toronto (RIP). NIU fell in that game 27-3. These two split their home-and-home set in 2001/2002, both teams winning at home.
USF is the second team from the American Athletic Conference to join NIU's non-conference schedule, and becomes the eighth schedule addition made by Frazier in the last two months.
With this announcement being delayed, I think most fans felt there would be two schools named to end the festivities, with another Power Five school being the other (that conference to the left of here would have been nice). Can't help but feel a tad disappointed in the Encore after being rather spoiled with the first installment of SchedulePalooza. But the work Frazier has done to improve NIU's upcoming games is mighty impressive, not to mention the way these games were revealed.
There was no tease about any future announcements, so let's look at how NIU's non-conference schedules look after the show that was SchedulePalooza (courtesy of FBSschedules):
2015: UNLV (9/5); Murray State (9/12); at Ohio State (9/19); at Boston College (9/26)
2016: at Wyoming (9/3); at USF (9/10); San Diego State (9/17); Boston College (9/23 - or 2017)
2017: Boston College (9/2 - or 2016); at Nebraska (9/16); USF (9/23); at San Diego State (9/30)
2018: at Iowa (9/1); Utah (9/8); at BYU (10/27); Idaho (TBA)
2019: at Utah (9/7); at Nebraska (9/14); at Vanderbilt (9/27)
2020: at Iowa (9/5); at Maryland (9/12); BYU (10/24)
2021: at Nebraska (9/4); Wyoming (9/11); Maryland (9/25)
2022: at Tulsa (9/10); Vanderbilt (9/17)
2023: at Nebraska (9/16); Tulsa (9/23)
TBA: at Wake Forest (this game was scheduled this year as a completion of a three-game set but was replaced with UNLV)
The biggest complaint NIU (and MAC) fans have had about the non-conference schedules have been scheduling FCS opponents. Only one remains in the next ten years for the Huskies. Will that change as we move along? Possibly. The schedules are not fully formed starting in 2018, plus one open date guaranteed in whichever date BC does not come to DeKalb. And how about those line-ups in 2019 and 2020? That's the kind of line-up NIU fans have been craving. Lastly, I know the Nebraska series was originally intended to include a Soldier Field game and was restructured, but I hope the Huskers pay well. Four trips to Lincoln in a seven-year stretch for the Huskies.
So, with our two month scheduling expedition ending, what series are you most excited about?