CARBONDALE — A ray of hope for the 2020 football season broke through the COVID-19 clouds today as SIU announced it has scheduled a game at Kansas to take place on Saturday, Aug. 29. The NCAA granted the schools a "Week Zero" waiver to play the contest.
Earlier this month, the Salukis had their Sept. 19 game at Wisconsin canceled when the Big Ten announced it was moving to a conference-only season. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks were set to open their season at home against FCS New Hampshire on Sept. 5, but that game was canceled when the Colonial Athletic Association suspended fall competition.
SIU was going to receive $500,000 for playing the Wisconsin game, and SIU Director of Athletics Liz Jarnigan announced the agreement to open the season at Kansas will pay Southern $300,000.
"I am thankful to the University of Kansas administration for working with us to schedule a Week Zero game in Lawrence to open up the 2020 football season," Jarnigan said. "After losing the opportunity to play at Wisconsin, I'm thrilled to be able to share the news with our student-athletes and fans that we again have a complete schedule."
SIU and Kansas have previously met three times, with the Jayhawks winning in 1986 (35-23), 1987 (16-15) and 2000 (42-0).
"We appreciate our administration finding another game and giving us this opportunity," said SIU head coach Nick Hill. "I was excited when I got the news. It gave us a shot in the arm that we needed, because it gives you something on the calendar to shoot for, plan for."
The Salukis will begin training camp on July 31 and have four weeks to prepare for the contest. Players have been returning to campus in recent weeks through a rigorous gating procedure to screen for COVID-19. No players have tested positive to date. Players, coaches and staff will follow stringent safety protocols throughout the return to football.
"I'm all on-board with getting back to football, as long as our doctors and health officials tell us it's safe for us to play," Hill said.
Hill will discuss the 2020 season, COVID safety procedures, and opening the season at Kansas, in an in-depth interview with Salukis Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Reis that will air exclusively on SIUSalukis.TV at 8 a.m. on Sunday.
This article originally ran on thesouthern.com.
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