15.11.12

SATURDAY IS FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL.

Former Northern Illinois sports information director Mike Korcek strengthens his case.
Only the [Mid-American Conference] hierarchy and league administrators can explain this continued nine-year TV experiment with ESPN - trading the traditional college football Saturday for midweek games in November and the exposure. Seeing some of the sparse crowds in Mid-Am stadiums live or on TV, I don’t know if the price is right.

No disrespect, but maybe some of the league presidents should sit outside with the loyal, but shivering fans on these nights. It’s cold, dark, and clammy in Huskie Stadium at 8 p.m. in mid-November. This is not Honolulu.
The aluminum bleachers are for the little people. The REMFs have skyboxes, or perhaps those north-end rec rooms behind the balcony of the locker room.

(Go here for the previous version of Mr Korcek's case.)

Toledo Blade columnist Dave Hackenberg concurs.
There was some guy sitting in his recliner in Little Rock who heard UT had a top-25 team, flipped on his TV, saw large swaths of empty seats on the screen, and figures we’re a lousy sports town. And after halftime, when a lady in Golden, Colo., put her feet up with a Coors Light and her knitting, those swaths had turned into entire sections.

This is not a lousy sports town. It is a lousy time to play a college football game.

It was nonetheless entertaining. Gracious, the teams combined for 577 yards of offense in the first half alone.
In order to get Toledo, the pre-season favorite, additional prime-time exposure, the Wednesday night game sent the Rockets to DeKalb.
[Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan] Lynch threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter, completing 13 of 15 attempts. Amazingly, the Huskies gained 347 yards in the quarter without facing a third down.
It ended as a hard-fought game, with Northern Illinois defending the West Division title.

The Blade also explained to its readers how things have changed, football-wise, at Northern Illinois.
After a 1-10 debut season, the Huskies celebrated their return to the MAC in 1997 by going 0-11.

“That had to be the worst team in major college football,” [retired coach Joe] Novak recalled. “We had to do some weeding out.

“It wasn’t pretty.”

But NIU insiders could see baby steps.
I leave readers to work out for themselves what might have been, had headquarters encouraged its faculty to make some baby steps and stay the course, rather than constantly burdening the academic endeavor with pet projects and fads.  Football progress somehow proceeds without revisiting the mission statement or drafting new strategic plans.
It was gradual, but early in the 2002 season the Huskies were ready to make a major move. They started 1-3, but followed with seven straight wins before a 33-30 loss to Toledo cost them an outright MAC West title and a trip to the league championship game.

In 2003, the Huskies beat No. 14 Maryland on national TV, then Alabama and Iowa State en route to a 7-0 start and a No. 10 slot in the BCS standings. But before it was over NIU dropped a 49-30 decision at Toledo and, in a great injustice, was not even selected for a bowl game.

Northern Illinois ended a two-decade bowl drought the following year and Novak got his only win against [Toledo] in 2005, a 35-17 decision at the Glass Bowl that paved the way to a MAC title game berth.

Since that 1-3 start in ’02, the Huskies are 86-47 overall and 63-22 in MAC play under Novak and his successors, Jerry Kill and Dave Doeren.

In the late 1990s Huskie Stadium was a ghost town — moms, dads, and girlfriends — even on game days; now it is a tough ticket and one of the MAC’s more hostile stages for opponents. Every NIU player and coach who walks into the Yordon Center, the team facility at one end of the stadium, should thank Novak.
Arguably, that 2002 season should have begun 2-2 (not the first time or the last time questionable officiating affected the outcome of a game), and it's probably more fun to have the play value of a good football program rather than a questionable one, or a corrupt one.  Also, arguably, capital investments in improved locker rooms and indoor practice facilities are not capital investments in classroom buildings with leaking roofs.  Those apparently get repaired when the building inspector condemns them.

No comments: