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CHAMPAIGN — Doors to all University of Illinois residence halls open at 9 a.m. today, whether anybody decides to show up or not.

UI Housing agreed to open a day earlier than usual to entice students to cheer on the Illini at the last home football game of the season against Northwestern, which starts at 11 a.m.

Illini athletics also offered an unlimited number of $10 tickets to students, in case their families or friends wanted to tag along.

And the UI offered free tickets to more than 20,000 students who applied for admission next fall.

Any student who applied to the UI by Nov. 1 was offered three free tickets, the same number the UI can give out to recruits, said Cassie Arner, associate athletic director for marketing.

As of Friday, about 7,000 tickets had been claimed, she said.

Housing Director Alma Sealine said students weren’t asked to commit ahead of time to coming back to the residence halls early, and she hadn’t heard much as of Friday.

“We’re just going to wait and see who might show up,” Sealine said. “I think the success of the football team this year may have an impact, but we just don’t know.

“They can come if they want. Our doors will be open,” she said.

The residence halls are staffed 24/7 already to keep buildings running, so some employees were already scheduled to work Saturday, she said. Electricians, plumbers and other facilities staff members are available, and building services workers are on call if needed, she said.

The UI provides housing at several buildings during Thanksgiving break for students who elect to stay on campus, so some staff members were already working, she said.

Housing made the decision to reopen Saturday awhile ago, to give RAs a heads up that they’d have to move in early, said Housing spokeswoman Chelsea Hamilton.

About half of the RAs stayed to help close the halls on the Friday before Thanksgiving, she said, and the other half were coming back early to reopen them today. Each building has a live-in resident director who will also be there, she said.

Sealine estimated that about 30 percent of the Housing staff will be working Saturday and another 25 percent are on call. Housing has about 650 full-time staff members and 2,000 student employees.

Dining halls will not be open until Sunday, so those workers won’t have to report Saturday.

It was unclear whether the promotions will boost tickets sales significantly. Athletics officials haven’t seen any surge, although the biggest sales push tends to come the day before the game, Arner said.

She didn’t have the latest sales reports Friday.

Students often make up their minds at the last minute, so opening up the residence halls early gives them a place to stay if they decide to head down to the game, she said.

The UI has about 2,400 student season-ticket holders for football, including Illini Pride passes (for football and basketball) and Block I students.

Reporter/Columnist

Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).