SIU football renewing long-lost local rivalry this weekend


Junior cornerback Craig James sprints onto the field Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, before the start of SIU’s 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Marisa Howell

Saluki football will face off with local rival Murray State on Saturday for the first time since 2003.

SIU Director of Athletics Tommy Bell and Murray State Director of Athletics Allen Ward wanted to create the matchup in the past, but have not been able to because of contractual issues. 

“Most schools are scheduling games four or five years out,” Ward said. “For example, the return date for this year’s game isn’t until 2018 due to other contractual obligations we had.”


The current contract with Murray State was reached in March 2015.

Bell said having local rivals do home-and-home series — where each school hosts a game — benefits both parties because of lower travel costs and easier trips for fans to travel to the game.

Saluki coach Nick Hill said Murray State will be a worthy opponent for the Salukis and “it only makes sense for these two teams to play.”

SIU football players run onto the field before the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)
SIU football players run onto the field before the Salukis’ 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Murray State and SIU are less than a two-hour drive apart, making them an easy nonconference matchup for other sports. The Saluki baseball, softball, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball teams all faced Murray State in their current or most previous season.

Neither Bell nor Ward see the rivalry between the two schools ending any time soon.

MORE: Scouting the Murray State Racers

This season’s installment was scheduled before Bell took over at SIU, but he plans to continue to keep Murray State on the Saluki schedule. He is planning as far out as the 2022 season.  


Saturday will be the 21st contest between the Salukis and Racers, with Murray holding the upper hand. The Racers have won 10 games to SIU’s eight with two ties.

“Because we haven’t played them in so long, as a team we need to be ready for anything,”  Hill said. “We plan to come out strong and work together as a team throughout the game.”

Staff writer Marisa Howell can be reached at 618-536-3333.

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