18.9.11

CHECK YOUR PREMISES.

Yesterday, Northern Illinois University hosted Wisconsin's football team at Soldier Field.  The game was the result of an agreement between the two universities' athletics departments to enhance revenue.  At the time of the agreement, Wisconsin's football program was disappointing some of its fans (anybody who gripes about a .500 season in Madison has no sense of history) and the beneficiary wasn't obvious. "Wisconsin will get a million for playing at Soldier Field. The way things are going there, it's not obvious which team is buying wins or boosting its attendance figures."

The turf at Soldier Field isn't as well maintained as that at Huskie Stadium.


Natural grass, more than a little bit torn apart by cleats, and the various graphics would be well-worn by game's end.


The artillery piece from DeKalb was present to salute any Northern Illinois scores.  Chicago Black Hawk singer Jim Cornelison sang the National Anthem, to the roars of the crowd (apart from visiting cheeseheads who didn't get the tradition, but the largest Wisconsin alumni club in the country is the one in Chicago, so a lot of the visitors' fans did.)

Saturday was NIU Day in Chicago, and the university used the event to announce a large donation toward the construction of the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Facility.  The indoor practice facility, part of the positional arms race to become the next Boise State out of the mid-majors, will go behind the current locker room and study center that has the most expensive end-zone seats in the Mid-American.


The practice facility will further obstruct the view into the stadium from the upper floors of the residence halls immediately north of Huskie Stadium.  The point, however, is to get the students to watch the games from their activity-fee-paid seats in the east stands, rather than from their rooms.

Here, dear reader, comes the quandary.

Wisconsin won the game, 49-7.
Wisconsin is a legitimate national title contender with [transfer baseball hopeful returned to quarterback Russell] Wilson. But for a team that wants to be the next Boise State or TCU, the past two weeks show how far NIU is away from that goal.

The Huskies reminded everyone that all of their goals are still in front of them after this game. Losing to an excellent Wisconsin team doesn't disqualify you from winning the Mid-American Conference.

They won't see anyone close to the likes of Wilson again, and NIU will play much better games, but Western Michigan star quarterback Alex Carder will watch film from this game. He will like what he sees. Same with Toledo's offensive threats.

If their jerseys is as clean as Wilson's after they play the Huskies, NIU's goals won't be possible.
That's a realistic assessment from a local sports journalist. To get an idea how different sports journalism is from the Washington Press Corps, I give you these kind remarks from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Wilson threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns against Northern. He averaged 7.4 yards a carry. OK, so he finally threw his first interception with Wisconsin, but that was only because Bielema elected to keep his starters on the field long enough to experience a fourth quarter.

You could say it was just against Northern Illinois, and to an extent you would be correct, but the Huskies are quite representative of that half-octave step down from the very best in college football. They've beaten Wisconsin once before, and that was at Camp Randall. They have a quality quarterback and were averaging almost 46 points a game.

"They have a fantastic offense," UW middle linebacker Chris Borland said. "We showed some maturity and handled that situation well."

Borland was talking about the whole thing, the dominating performance and doing it in an odd setting. The Huskies threw everything they could think of at Wisconsin, even an onside kick that caught the Badgers leaning, and it still didn't matter.
I'll leave that half-octave stuff for the various coaching staffs to work through. Northern Illinois beat West Point, West Point just beat Northwestern, Northwestern always gives Wisconsin fits at Evanston, you get the picture.

The quest to become the next Boise State requires scrutiny more like that of the Washington Press Corps.  The academic ambitions for the next decade include an expansion of enrollments, with a large tranche of that increase in the form of nontraditional students, with an emphasis on providing courses on-line.  And an observation by the dean at Anonymous Community summarizes a related challenge.
Physically, Rockford is maybe an hour and a half from Chicago, but culturally they’re on different planets; in many ways, Chicago is closer to New York than to Rockford.
DeKalb is about midway between each, with a lot of focus on Chicago and its suburbs, and the university perceives a calling to reach out to Rockford, an economically troubled place.  Put the pieces together: will sufficiently many students and alumni of an expanded Northern Illinois student body become football enthusiasts.  (We already know the response of those big Wisconsin and Iowa alumni chapters in Chicago.)

No comments: