ST. LOUIS - Southern Illinois will play Southeast Missouri State at Busch Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, marking the first football game in the storied tradition of that stadium and giving St. Louis-area fans and alumni of the two schools an opportunity to see the teams in their own backyard.
The official announcement of the game took place during a press conference on Monday and is the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes work between officials at SIU, SEMO and the Major League Baseball Cardinals. The pro franchise will rent-out the facility for the day while their team is out of town for a week during the regular season.
"We are thrilled to host our first football game in Busch Stadium with two great schools that have such a large following in St. Louis," said Bill DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. "We are excited to showcase the versatility of Busch Stadium as a multi-use venue ideally suited for special football games like this historic game between two longstanding rivals."
SIU Chancellor Dr. Rita Cheng lauded the cooperation between the schools as a key factor in securing the agreement to play the non-conference game at a neutral site.
"We have a great rivalry on the field, but off the field, we share the commitment to student success and the success of our communities," Cheng said. "It's fitting that we should have this historic event in this beautiful stadium."
Combined, the two University have approximately 40,000 alumni in the St. Louis area, plus thousands of current students.
"Nearly 40 percent of this year's freshman class at Southeast is from the greater St. Louis region," said Kenneth W. Dobbins, President of Southeast Missouri State University. "Playing this game at Busch Stadium is exciting for all our students and great exposure for our University and the Redhawk football program."
The 80-game series between two schools separated by just 45 miles dates all the way back to 1909. While the Redhawks hold a 39-33-8 advantage overall, Southern has won six of the last seven meetings.
"It's intense -- it's what you want in a rivalry," said SIU head coach Dale Lennon. "Now you put it in the city of St. Louis where both programs recruit heavily, you have the alumni bases that are very strong in the community -- I hope we can make something special."
Tickets will go on sale June 3 and prices start at $5 for students and $10 for adults. Fans will be able to purchase seats through the Cardinals website at Cardinals.com/football, and each school will have blocks of tickets to sell on consignment.
"This game can only be a success if our fans rally behind it and support this," said SIU Deputy AD Chet Savage. "I make an open call to Saluki Nation -- whether you're in the St. Louis area or Metro-East, Carbondale and beyond, we'd love to see you here September 21st at Busch Stadium for a first-class event."