CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri State have joined a growing list of college football programs that are planning to play football this fall. In a joint announcement on Monday, the schools said they are scheduled to play at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale on Friday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m.

SIU Director of Athletics Liz Jarnigan and SEMO AD Brady Barke worked together with both schools’ head coaches to map out a safe return to practice and competition.

“We’re so excited to bring football back this fall for our players, staff and fans,” Jarnigan said. “There have been challenges along the way, but I’m confident in the processes we have in place that we can have a safe and enjoyable evening on Oct. 23rd.”

SIU head coach Nick Hill, who played for SEMO head coach Tom Matukewicz during his career at Southern Illinois, said a fall matchup with the Redhawks was the right fit for both programs.

“If we were going to play any game this fall, we were going to play SEMO,” Hill said. “The rivalry, the uniqueness of two Division I schools with the histories of both programs that are 45 minutes away from each other. A lot of the uncertainty of these times is travel, staying in hotels, getting on planes.”

SEMO will drive to Southern on the day of the game and return the same night.

Saluki Athletics is working on a reduced-capacity seating plan and other measures that could allow season-ticket holders and students to attend the game. Details will be announced at a later date.

“People are starving for football in the area and both fan bases can have a game to rally around,” Hill said.

Both the No. 24 Salukis and No. 25 Redhawks are ranked in the Stats FCS preseason poll. The game will count toward the 2020-21 season record and be used by the selection committee when determining the proposed 16-team playoff field. The Missouri Valley Football Conference expects to play an eight-game spring season, followed by the FCS Playoffs.

The game will be the 88th meeting all-time between the schools in a series that dates back to 1909 when the teams had to cross the Mississippi River by boat to play. The rivalry is branded the “War For The Wheel” in reference to the ship’s wheel trophy that goes to the winner. SEMO is currently in possession of the wheel after last year’s 44-26 win in Cape Girardeau.

Both schools will resume full-team practices today.

“To start talking about game plans, practice schedules and how we’re going to get this team ready to go — as a football coach, it’s exciting to be able to do that,” Hill said.

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