LAWRENCE — Kansas football has filled the early void on its schedule.
The KU athletic department announced Saturday that it has added Southern Illinois to its football schedule, now set to kick off the Jayhawks’ season on Aug. 29 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. New Hampshire, KU’s original opponent for Game 1, had backed out of the scheduled opener set for Sept. 5 after postponing its entire fall sports slate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
KU athletic director Jeff Long said in a news release that the decision to choose Southern Illinois as the replacement came after a review with campus leaders and a search regionally for "quality opponent(s)," with medical professionals also weighing in on the decision.
"Importantly, Southern Illinois agreed to follow the Big 12 testing protocols once they have been finalized," Long said. "SIU provides us a challenge as we open the 2020 season."
KU holds a 3-0 edge versus Southern Illinois all-time in the series, which dates back to 1986. This year’s amended tilt represents the earliest opener for the Jayhawks since 1999.
KU coach Les Miles said his team is "excited" for the July 31 start of fall camp and for the opportunity to face "a good Southern Illinois football team."
"We feel that playing this game will prove beneficial for both programs for many reasons, especially due to SIU’s proximity to Lawrence," Miles said. "Coach (Nick) Hill will have his team prepared to play and we look forward to the challenge at The Booth on (Aug. 29)."
Southern Illinois is set to receive $300,000 from KU per terms of the agreement, according to athletic director Liz Jarnigan, helping the Salukis after the cancellation of a Sept. 19 contest at Wisconsin that would've sent $500,000 to the visiting squad.
"We appreciate our administration finding another game and giving us this opportunity," Hill said in a news release. "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 Jayhawk football team reopened voluntary workouts July 22, which followed a two-plus-week shutdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.