MAC Champion NIU Huskies to play in Tailgreeter Cure Bowl

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DETROIT, MICHIGAN – DECEMBER 04: Head coach Thomas Hammock of the Northern Illinois Huskies talks with referees after a touchdown in the first half against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Ford Field on December 04, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

DeKALB, Ill. – Less than 24 hours after winning their sixth Mid-American Conference Championship with a 41-23 victory over Kent State in Detroit, the Northern Illinois University Huskies accepted an invitation to the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

NIU (9-4, 6-2 MAC) will take on Coastal Carolina (10-2, 6-2 Sun Belt) for the first time at Exploria Stadium, home to Orlando City of Major League Soccer (MLS) and Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The game will kick off at 6 p.m. (ET)/5 p.m. (CT) on Friday, December 17 and be televised on ESPN2.

The Huskies will play in a bowl game for the 19th time in school history and for the 14th time as a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. The Tailgreeter Cure Bowl will be NIU’s 11th bowl appearance in the last 14 seasons, adding to one of the longest extended strings of success among Group of Five teams.

“Coach Hammock, the staff, and our team are excited to compete and represent NIU as Mid-American Conference Champions in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl,” said NIU Vice-President and Director of Athletics and Recreation Sean T. Frazier. “I hope our fans take this opportunity to join us in Orlando at a great destination. We’re looking forward to seeing our team compete one last time after a truly outstanding season so far. Thank you to the Orlando Sports Foundation, Executive Director Alan Gooch and his staff for their commitment to a first-class experience for our student-athletes and our entire travel party.”

Winners of their sixth MAC Championship in school history, and fifth since 2011, the NIU Huskies completed an historic “worst to first journey when the Huskies defeated Kent State, 41-23, in the 2021 Rocket Mortgage MAC Championship Game. Led by quarterback Rocky Lombardi, NIU went from 0-6 in 2020 to 9-4 in 2021, including a 6-2 mark in conference play. The Huskies won seven games by one-score margins behind a ground game that ranks fifth in the country averaging 234.2 yards per game behind the rushing of MAC Freshman of the Year Jay Ducker.

“We are excited about the opportunity to play in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl in Orlando,” said NIU head coach Thomas Hammock. “The exposure, the experience and the ability to put NIU on a national stage is tremendous for our university, tremendous for our team and tremendous for our program.

“Coastal Carolina is certainly a very quality opponent and I expect a great atmosphere and a competitive game between two very good football teams. We look forward to having a chance to play our best football. The bowl game is a great experience for the guys that weren’t on the travel roster, as a reward for all their hard work, because it takes a complete team working together to have the kind of successful, championship-winning season we have had. We want to enjoy the bowl experience, but we also want to win the game.”

Tickets for the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl are on sale now through the NIU Athletics Ticket Office. Prices in the NIU section are $60 per ticket. Tickets can be ordered online through or by calling 815-753-PACK (7225) beginning Monday, December 6 at 9 a.m. (CT). Tickets in this section are limited and subject to availability; Huskie fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets through NIU. 

The Huskie Athletic Fund Priority Seating deadline is Friday, December 10 at 5 p.m.  Seat locations are assigned based on first, 2021 HAF membership level and second, priority points. All tickets distributed to the 2021 Tailgreeter Cure Bowl at Exploria Stadium will be via mobile ticketing. Fans will be asked to use their mobile device and the Cure Bowl Account Manager at to access, transfer and resell their tickets.

Making its second consecutive bowl trip since being elevated to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) in 2017, Coastal Carolina finished the season second in the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division after posting a 10-2 overall record and a 6-2 mark in conference play. Led by quarterback Grayson McCall, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Coastal Carolina boasts a potent offense, leading the nation in passing efficiency (190.63) and ranking seventh in total offense, averaging 493.1 yards per game. The Chanticleers are sixth in the country in rushing offense, just behind NIU, averaging 231.2 yards a game.

The Cure Bowl, one of the 17 college football bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events, is one of many fundraising events hosted by the Orlando Sports Foundation that supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) and other cancer organizations. Over $3.88 million has been raised since 2015. Local Orlando researcher Dr. Annette Khaled at the UCF College of Medicine has been vetted by BCRF and received $1.2 million from the funds donated.

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