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NIU Giving Students Free Orange Bowl Tix

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DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 30: Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies scores a second-half touchdown against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the Mid-American Conference Championship game at Ford Field on November 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Illinois won 44-37 (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 30: Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies scores a second-half touchdown against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the Mid-American Conference Championship game at Ford Field on November 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Illinois won 44-37 (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There may be an influx of Northern Illinois University students in Miami in the first week of January, but it’s not an early spring break.

The school announced Monday that students will be offered free tickets to the Orange Bowl if they can get to the game, scheduled for January 1 at Sun Life Stadium. Northern Illinois bought 17,500 tickets as required by the Bowl Championship Series for appearing in the game.

The school told ESPN.com that it is willing to absorb the costs to allow students to get into the game if they can get to South Florida. According to ESPN, roughly 500 students had reserved tickets through the school as of Monday.

Northern Illinois students still have to absorb the cost of getting to Miami, around New Year’s Eve, which may make even the free ticket offer not enough to help the Huskies fill the stands.

The Huskies made it to the BCS by finishing ranked 15th in the final BCS rankings released last Sunday. By rule, if a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference, like the Mid-American Conference, finishes the season ranked higher than conference champions from BCS automatic qualifiers; the non-AQ team gets a BCS bid.

Because the Orange Bowl had the last selection this year, it was left with Northern Illinois to face the ACC Champion Florida State Seminoles. The seemingly one-sided matchup had some crying foul, especially Oklahoma fans.

If Northern Illinois had finished outside of the top 16 in the BCS, the Sooners would have earned a bid to play in the Sugar Bowl against Florida. That would have also sent Louisville to the Orange Bowl to play the Noles.

Still, Wisconsin made it into the BCS to play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford, despite losing five games this season. The Badgers backed into the Big Ten Championship game where they summarily slaughtered the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 70-31.

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