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Posted on Thu, Aug 20, 2009 : 2:35 p.m.

Eastern Michigan University to host Michigan State in football and basketball

By Jeff Arnold

Rynearson Stadium has never hosted a Big Ten opponent.

Thanks to an agreement between Michigan State and the state's three Mid-American Conference schools, that will soon change.


Well, maybe not that soon. But in time.

Eastern Michigan will host the Spartans during either the 2018 or 2020 season as part of The "Celebrate The State" football series that was announced Thursday in East Lansing.

Michigan State made its last trip to Ypsilanti in 1899 when Eastern Michigan was known as Michigan State Normal College.

Eastern Michigan had a home game with Northwestern two years ago, but that game was played at Ford Field in Detroit.

In exchange for hosting the Spartans at Rynearson, Eastern Michigan will travel to Spartan Stadium in 2012, 2014 and 2016. As part of the deal, Eastern Michigan will receive a guarantee to make the trip to Michigan State for the first two games with the final two games of the series being a home-and-home swap, Eastern Michigan athletic director Derrick Gragg said Thursday night.

"When you're trying to build excitement around an athletic program, this is just another piece of the puzzle," Gragg said in a telephone interview."It's very exciting."

Gragg declined to specify how much Eastern Michigan will receive in guaranteed money as the contracts have not yet be finalized. He said the figure the two schools have agreed upon in purpose is very competitive and fair. Gragg indicated the guarantee will be more than Eastern Michigan has received to travel to East Lansing in the past.

Gragg believes bringing a Big Ten opponent to Ypsilanti will help generate gate receipts at Rynearson that will reach a level never seen.

The relationship isn't limited to football. Michigan State's men's basketball team will travel to the Convocation Center during the 2011-2012 season, the schools announced Thursday. Eastern was to have hosted Michigan in basketball this season, but that game was canceled, a university spokesman said Thursday afternoon.

"This partnership will give us an opportunity to play the Spartans at home in both men's basketball and football," Gragg said at Thursday's press conference. "These home games will be exciting for our players, our fans and our university as we look forward to the challenge of competing against Michigan State in these historic venues."

Michigan State worked out similar deals with Central Michigan and Western Michigan as part of a series that will include 12 games over 10 years. Central Michigan's Kelly-Shorts Stadium will host the first game of the series in 2012.

"The series provides an opportunity for competitive games, positive celebrations and economic benefits," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said during a press conference Thursday.

"The series provides an opportunity for Michigan State fans to celebrate Spartan football at locations across our state. Financially, the series provides a positive for each university with regards to game guarantees, regionalized travel expenses and keeps revenues within the boundaries of the state of Michigan."

Gragg said the series serves as a testament to not only MAC schools, but those located here in Michigan.

"Michigan State could have scheduled this with other MAC schools like Toledo or Bowling Green," he said. "But given the economic times, (Michigan State) felt it was important to keep the revenues generated by this series here in Michigan."