RANTOUL — Of course, he is concentrating on the 2012 season. But Illinois coach Tim Beckman realizes he's got a special game coming in 2013.
Illinois and Washington have agreed to play their Sept. 14, 2013, game at Chicago's Soldier Field. Illinois was originally scheduled to host the Huskies, part of an eight-game home schedule. The chance to play at an NFL stadium was too appealing for Illinois.
"I did hear that," Beckman said after Tuesday's afternoon practice. "We're excited about that."
Beckman played a role in switching the game to Soldier Field. But the bulk of the credit goes to Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who has stated he wants a game in Chicago in the years when Illinois doesn't play at Northwestern.
"We talked about it," Beckman said. "I was asked and there was no question if we had an opportunity to play in an NFL venue, I think that's very exciting for our football players."
Beckman said the impact will extend beyond the Illinois players who make the trip. There are recruiting implications.
"It's huge," Beckman said. "We want our players in-state to stay home and have a chance to play in an NFL stadium."
Beckman said he was asked about playing a couple different opponents in Chicago.
"I know Washington is a great program," Beckman said.
Illinois last played a nonconference game at Soldier Field in 1994, losing to Washington State. Attendance for the Thursday night game was listed at 39,472.
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Illinois will play Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 14, 2013. The game originally was to be played in Champaign.
Athletic director Mike Thomas has said he wants to play a game in Chicago in the years Illinois doesn't play at Northwestern.
"This is a great opportunity for our football team to play in one of the most historic football venues in the nation," Thomas said. "Soldier Field is in an incredible location that will allow our fans in the Chicagoland area and from around the state an opportunity to watch the Fighting Illini take on an outstanding Pac-12 opponent in Washington."
Illinois is to play at Washington in 2014.
The 2013 schedule is complete and features seven games at Memorial Stadium. The last slot was filled by Miami (Ohio), which visits Sept. 28. Illinois will have open dates on Sept. 21 and Oct. 12.
In 1994, Illinois lost to Washington State 10-9 at a half-filled Soldier Field.
Aug. 31 vs. Southern Illinois
Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati
Sept. 14 vs. Washington (at Chicago)
Sept. 28 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 5 at Nebraska
Oct. 19 vs. Wisconsin
Oct. 26 vs. Michigan State
Nov. 2 at Penn State
Nov. 9 at Indiana
Nov. 16 vs. Ohio State
Nov. 23 at Purdue
Nov. 30 vs. Northwestern