Anthony and Danielle are getting married tomorrow. And the wedding was perfectly planned. The Illini have a bye week on October 9th, so Champaign hotel rooms well be plentiful. Wait, hold on, I've just been handed this note from the Big Ten offices...
Before we get into this, I just want you to think about that. You planned your wedding. You wanted to get married in the fall but you didn't want to get married on a football weekend. You look up the schedule, you pick the bye week, and everything is set. Then, in February, an announcement from the Big Ten: they're changing the 2021 schedule. And that's no longer a bye week. It's homecoming.
Let's first cover the "why did it change?" here. We have to go back to August of 2020. The Big Ten had already announced that they would only be playing conference games during the 2020 season. All non-conference matchups were off. And then, in August, the Big Ten announced they were postponing the season. THEN, in September, they reversed course and decided to play an eight-game season with a "bonus game" during the week of the Big Ten championship game. It's because of that decision that Anthony and Danielle had to scramble. But we'll get to that in a minute.
Because of the eight game season, the regular rotation of nine conference games was altered. (It was at this point that Robert realized that "altared" - would be the perfect mashup title for this post. So he want back and changed the article title from "wedding curveball" to "altared".) Not only did some matchups not take place - the game eliminated from the Illini schedule in 2020 was against Indiana - some were moved from one campus to the other to make the shortened, conference-only, October 23rd-to-December-12th schedule work.
Here's the best way to explain it. The revised schedule last season meant that Indiana played at Michigan State two years in a row. If they didn't flip the 2021 game back to Bloomington, that would mean Indiana would have to play MSU in East Lansing three years in a row. It could be as simple as "just move the game this year to Bloomington", but that would have meant that Michigan State would have had four consecutive Big Ten road games on their 2021 schedule.
As a result, the Big Ten had to tweak their 2021 schedule. Illinois wasn't painted into any scheduling corners, but Wisconsin was. If Anthony and Danielle want to know exactly why there's a home game during their Champaign wedding, these are the dominoes:
- Wisconsin/Minnesota had to be moved to November 27th.
- That bumped their game against Iowa, so that game was moved to October 30th.
- That bumped their Northwestern game, so it was moved to November 13th.
- That bumped their Purdue game, so it was moved to October 23rd.
- And THAT bumped the Illinois game, so it was moved to Illinois' bye week on October 9th.
For Illinois, the changes were simple. Under the old schedule, after the Charlotte game, it was bye week, then at Penn State, then Wisconsin at home. After these changes, it was Wisconsin at home, then bye week, then a game at Penn State.
Which meant that the bye week moved from October 9th to October 16th. Which meant that Anthony and Danielle's wedding went from the bye week to "not only is it a home game now, it's homecoming".
I talked to Anthony this week to find out what that moment was like.
"I was at work and I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that they changed the date. And I was like, 'ninth, wait, that actually says the ninth. Oh crap'. And I took a screenshot of it, sent it to Danielle, my fiance. She's like, 'Wait, are you serious?' 'Yeah, this just got out right now.' She's like, and it was just like all caps, 'HOLY S#*T'."
The big panic moment? Hotel rooms. That's not an issue when you're having a wedding in Champaign during a football bye weekend. It's because of football weekends that hotel inventory is plentiful around C-U. Wedding guests would be able to book a hotel room the night before. But when the Big Ten announces their schedule changes at 1:00 pm on February 5th, by 5:00 pm there will be thousands of reservations switched to the weekend of the 9th. Unlimited hotel room options just suddenly became very limited.
But that wasn't the only hotel panic moment for Anthony and Danielle. Their reception was booked for the hotel that usually houses the visiting team. And now there was going to be a visiting team in Champaign on October 9th.
"When we were visiting with the event coordinator over there at the time, he said that they always housed the away team", Anthony said. "So it was perfect that it was a bye week at that time because they don't have anything there. But the week before, they had Charlotte and they already had everything blocked off. Luckily, we had signed that contract and everything, so we were set. They couldn't back out of it and they had already blocked off, I think, 12 or 15 rooms for us. We were all set with that.
"We're like, 'Okay, that helps a whole lot.' But then we started, like, 'Now we need to make sure we have enough blocks in rooms at other hotels because those prices are just going to go sky high'."
Can you imagine? I guess it's helpful that this is an Illinois homecoming and not, say, Michigan. If this happened in Ann Arbor, every available hotel room would be booked by 2:30 pm after a 1:00 pm announcement of a schedule change. Illinois doesn't exactly have 100,000 people headed to campus for homecoming.
But there are tens of thousands. And Anthony wasn't lying about the prices going sky high. I just checked local hotel inventory on Booking.com and while there are still some rooms available, they're mostly all 2-star rooms for a 4-star price.
Wait, this is IlliniBoard. We uses Tom Cruises around here.
There are no 3, 4, or 5-Cruise hotels available in the area this weekend. All that's left are a few 2-Cruise and 1-Cruise hotels, and those hotels have put their prices in the stratosphere. One room for two nights at the Days Inn on Bloomington Road will run you $426 for two nights this weekend. That same hotel if you wanted a room this coming Monday night? $53.
So yes. Smart move immediately looking into blocking out hotel rooms, Anthony and Danielle.
I asked Anthony if any of their wedding guests had reached out to complain about planning their wedding for homecoming weekend. Here they are, planning a wedding for a bye weekend to avoid that typical complaint and then not only is a game moved to that date, it's homecoming. He said they anticipated that.
"I don't think we ever had any issues like that where people were like 'why in the world did you decide on this?' I think we kind of got out ahead of it pretty well. We sent out an email to everyone that we're inviting and saying, 'Hey, just let you know, it's Homecoming weekend now. It was a change they just made so make sure to get on getting your rooms booked and everything before it's too late'."
They blocked off rooms at several hotels the day the game changes were announced, so I asked if those blocks were enough that all wedding guests were able to find a room. He said that they only had one issue: the best man (isn't it always the best man?). He had called to get a room and was told everything was booked. But he didn't know to call and ask for a room in the Anthony/Danielle hotel room block. Those darn best men. (I think I've booked a wedding hotel without asking for the wedding block twice. Two times.)
Now I needed to ask the big question. If he's getting married that afternoon, and his team is playing Wisconsin that afternoon, is he going to try to watch any of it? He said that the wedding is at 3:00 pm, so he was hoping for an 11:00 am game so he could watch the game while getting ready with the groomsmen. Alas, the game was scheduled for 2:30, so he'll be in full wedding mode during most of the game.
But what if it's close like 2019?
"I still remember that game so extremely well, because that was one of my days off of work for the first time in weeks. We could have even gone to the game. We had people from my work saying, 'You want some tickets?' I'm like, 'No, we'll just stay home and just have a day where we don't have to do anything'.
"I went to the golf course about halftime and we actually started doing well and I wasn't watching. All I was doing was just listening on the radio. And then we go out to the course. She's streaming the game on my phone while I'm just listening for the background noise. I got off the range when Bhebhe scored, caught the touchdown. And then when we got the turnover, I was in the fairway on number one. I got off number one green when Dre made the run.
"And then I stopped on hole two tee when we were lining up for the field goal. And since it's Hulu and it's a couple minutes behind, I was at Champaign Country Club so you can hear the stuff that's going on at Memorial Stadium. They were lining up for the field goal and nothing had happened yet. And we hear the fireworks go off and I just froze. Are you kidding with me right now. Did we seriously just do this? We just go absolutely nuts. She jumps in my arms. I could have run down the fairway with all that energy. I was so pumped. I kind of blacked out there a little bit. I honestly was kind of like, 'Hell, let's just go back. Let's just take the cart and let's just go over and join this crowd that's on the field'."
I soooo wish Anthony and his fiancee would have driven a cart from Champaign Country Club to Memorial Stadium and then buzzed around the field as part of the celebration. Maybe we need to put a cart outside their reception just in case tomorrow's game goes well.
Anthony said he'll be in "wedding mode" tomorrow so he doesn't plan on streaming any part of the game. And I totally get that. Juice Williams was announcing his college choice on my wedding day in 2005 and I didn't even check when I got to the hotel that night. Also, there was no temptation to check my phone real quick during the reception because, uh, smartphones didn't exist yet.
So I'm fully on board with Anthony's decision to be 100% wedding, 0% football tomorrow. This is a big day, and despite this massive curveball, they were able to get everything set up and ready to go. Sounds like it will be perfect weather, so here's hoping they have a fantastic wedding day without a single thought towards Illini football.
Unless we win, of course. If we win, I'd better see a bride and groom in a golf cart circling the field.