Saluki football adds BYU to 2024 schedule, replacing Kansas


Mallory Aukland | @mauklandphoto

SIU football players practice April 2, 2022 at DuQuoin High School in DuQuoin, Ill.

Saluki fans thinking about going to Lawrence, Kansas on Aug. 31, 2024 will have to adjust their plans, as Southern Illinois football will be heading to Provo, Utah instead.

The Salukis announced last week they will travel to face the BYU Cougars in 2024, which will be the team’s first game of the season. The game will replace a previously scheduled matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks on the program’s future calendar.

The Kansas game was originally scheduled in July 2020 to be played the next month to accommodate for COVID-19 related cancellations, but was ultimately postponed to 2024. Southern Illinois will receive a $560,000 payout for the game; $425,000 will come from BYU, while the rest will come from Kansas.


The news comes just a week and a half after the Salukis upset Northwestern of the Big Ten conference 31-24 in their second victory over a Power Five program in school history. Head coach Nick Hill was also involved in SIU’s first such win, a 35-28 win over Indiana in 2006.

“For our program and for our fans, it was a special day for all of Saluki nation,” Hill said of the Northwestern win.

BYU will join the Big 12 conference in 2023 as part of a nationwide conference realignment in college sports, making them a Power Five opponent by the time they take on Southern Illinois. Currently an FBS Independent, it will soon join the conference alongside Houston, UCF and 2021 College Football Playoff participant Cincinnati.

The Cougars may prove to be the toughest opponent Southern Illinois has scheduled in decades. Through Week 5 of the 2022 campaign, BYU has accumulated a record of 25-5 since 2020 and sits at No. 19 in the AP FBS Top 25 rankings. If BYU maintains its Top-25 status entering 2024, it will be the first time the Salukis will face a ranked FBS opponent since 1990.

SIU’s most recent visit to the state of Utah was for an FCS playoff game in April 2020 against Weber State, which saw the Salukis upset the No. 3 ranked Wildcats thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass from Stone Labanowitz to current SIU linebacker Branson Combs with 51 seconds left.

Although Southern Illinois has never played BYU, it has a history against Big 12 opponents. The Salukis lost to Kansas three times in 1986, 1987 and 2000; lost to Baylor in 2001; and most recently lost to Kansas State in 2021.

While none of those games ended in SIU’s favor, the Salukis played close in a few of them. The 1987 matchup in particular was notable, as Southern had the ball and a five-point lead with less than five minutes to go when a fumble gave Kansas the opportunity to take the lead and the victory.


Last year’s Salukis held a two-point lead at halftime against Kansas State but ended up getting shut out in the second half and allowing K-State to take a 31-23 victory.

“I’m sick to my stomach because I felt like we should’ve won that football game,” Hill said after the loss to the Wildcats.

That team would build off of the close loss, winning its next five games en route to an FCS playoff bid. On the opposite sideline, Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman credited the Salukis for being a tough opponent despite being from the FCS.

“We’re excited about getting the win over a really good Southern Illinois team,” he said after the game. “I know the league really well that they play in and I know they have really good football players.”

While there is an overall talent gap between the FBS and FCS, the Salukis have proven that teams from the lower division can compete with and even defeat some of the more well-known schools in the country. Southern has led or been tied at halftime in six of its seven games against FBS opponents since Hill took over in 2016.

2024 is still a long way off, as many of the current Salukis will be graduated in favor of a new crop of players. Still, it’s going to be a great test for that year’s SIU team on its opening weekend. Although Southern just recently had a candidate for biggest win in school history, a tight contest with Brigham Young University could be even bigger.

“I’m proud of the way the entire building stayed together and really believed in going out there and winning that football game when probably most people did not,” Hill said of his team’s last win over a Power Five team.

If anybody could do it, it’s coach Hill’s Salukis. From Power Five teams all the way down to the lowest FCS schools, Southern Illinois has shown it can compete with anyone in the country on its best day. The program might be getting paid to play at BYU, but it will be looking for more than just money when it comes back home to Carbondale.

Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen. 

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