Northern Illinois Huskies football

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Northern Illinois Huskies
2018 Northern Illinois Huskies football team
Northern Illinois Huskies football logo.svg
First season 1899
Athletic director Sean Frazier
Head coach Rod Carey
6th season, 44–24 (.647)
Other staff Mike Uremovich (OC)
Kevin Kane (DC)
Stadium Huskie Stadium
(Capacity: 23,595)
Field Brigham Field
Year built 1965
Field surface FieldTurf
Location DeKalb, Illinois
NCAA division Division I FBS
Conference Mid-American
Division West
Past conferences Independent (1899–1919)
IIAC (Illinois) (1920–24)
Independent (1925–27)
IIAC (Illinois) (1928–49)
IIAC (1950–65)
Independent (1966–72)
Mid-American (1973–85)
Independent (1986–92)
Big West (1993–95)
Independent (1996)
All-time record 548–465–51 (.539)
Bowl record 4–8 (.333)
Claimed nat'l titles 1 (1963)
Conference titles 12
Division titles 10
Consensus All-Americans 3
Colors Cardinal and Black[1]
Fight song "Huskie Fight Song"[2]
Mascot Victor E. Huskie[3]
Marching band The Pride of the Midwest"[4]

The Northern Illinois Huskies football team are a college football program representing Northern Illinois University (NIU) in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of college football. Rod Carey is the current head coach, the 22nd in the program's history. NIU football plays its home games at Huskie Stadium on the campus of the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.

The Huskies compete in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) as a member of the West Division, where they have won four championships in 1983, 2011, 2012 and 2014. They have played in ten post-season bowl games since 2004, most notably the 2013 Orange Bowl.


NIU’s football program was established in the late 19th century, playing its first ever game against DeKalb High School in 1899 and was led by coach John L. Keith to the team's first ever victory. NIU started out in the independent scene from 1899 through 1919 before joining the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team became independent again in 1925. NIU returned to the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1928 and finished the season winless for the first time. In 1929 however, Red Evans took over as the head football coach and immediately twisted the downhill fate of his team as he led his squad to a 6–1–1 record. Evans led the Huskies to continuous winning seasons since his take over, and his efforts paid off in 1938 as NIU captured the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, the team's first title. He followed it up with three more championships (1941, '44, and '46) and even led the Huskies' to a back-to-back bowl game appearance in 1946 and 1947.

In 1950, the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which had dwindled down to only five members (NIU, SIU, EIU, WIU, and ISU) accepted its first members from out of state and changed its name to the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. With the exception of the spotless season (9–0–0) in 1951 that earned the team a 5th conference title, NIU failed to make a decent showing during the first few years in the newly named conference. Howard Fletcher though had other plans as he picked up the pieces of the miserable 0–8–1 season from Robert Kahler in 1956. The Huskies' had a slow progress that picked up in the late 1950s. The team's third bowl game appearance in 1962, although a loss, was only the beginning of good things to come as in the following season, the Huskies completed their sixth undefeated season which earned them the Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, an AP College Division National championship selection, and a ticket to the prestigious Mineral Water Bowl which the team eventually won over Missouri State. The team made it a three-peat championship, adding up the 1964 and 1965 conference titles. NIU became independent from 1966 through '72 before joining the Mid-American Athletic Conference in 1973. The team claimed the MAC title in 1983 then went on to their first Bowl Game in the Division I-A, the California Bowl, which the Huskies won over Cal State-Fullerton. The team left the MAC after the 1985 season and first became independent from 1986–92, then joined the Big West Conference from 1993 through '95, becoming independent again in '96, then finally was admitted back into the Mid-American Conference in 1997.

Joe Novak[edit]

Joe Novak took over the Huskies program in December 1995, and coached his first NIU game in September 1996. The first three years of Novak's tenure proved to be tumultuous, as his Huskies squads won a total of three games between 1996 and 1998. Despite this, Novak kept his job and turned the program around. On October 17, 1998, the Huskies broke their epic losing streak, by defeating Central Michigan University 17-6. The student body tore down the goal posts, and carried them down Lincoln Highway, planting the goal posts in a campus lagoon.[5] University president John LaTourette personally paid to have new goal posts installed. In 1999, NIU won 5 games, and in 2000 Novak started a string of seven consecutive winning seasons, going 6–5 in both 2000 and 2001. After a 1–3 start to the 2002 season, fans[who?] began to see the fruits of Novak's labor as the team ripped off 7 consecutive wins, and only a 33–30 loss in their final game against rival Toledo prevented a MAC Championship Game appearance.

Optimism was high to start the 2003 season,[citation needed] with 12 returning starters including prospect and future NFL players Michael Turner, Doug Free, Brad Cieslak, P.J. Fleck, Dan Sheldon, Keith Perry, Vinson Reynolds, Akil Grant, Randee Drew, and Travis Moore. On opening weekend, the Huskies beat No. 14 Maryland, 20–17, in overtime. Then, the Huskies traveled to Tuscaloosa and beat No. 21 Alabama, 16–13. After beating Iowa State the following week, the Huskies were rolling and won their first 7 games. Following their week 5 win against Ohio, the first BCS standings were released, and by week 7 the Huskies had climbed to No. 10 overall. Novak and the Huskies could not keep that momentum going, as they lost in week 8 at No. 22 Bowling Green, which also featured the first ever ESPN GameDay appearance for a MAC football game. The Huskies lost one more game in 2003, to Toledo, finishing the year 10–2, unranked, and uninvited to a bowl game.

Novak's 2004 and 2006 teams both went to bowl games. The 2004 team went to the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, California and was the first Huskies team to go bowling in 21 years. The Huskies fell behind early, 14–0, to a Troy team that featured current NFLer DeMarcus Ware, but were able to rally behind future NFL running back Garrett Wolfe and the accurate passing of Josh Haldi to win, 34–21. In 2006, Wolfe and company returned to a bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl, against TCU and lost 37–7.

Novak's final year was a tough one, winning only 2 games and finishing at the bottom of the MAC West. Overall Novak won 63 games as the Huskies' head coach. He currently[when?] is retired and resides in North Carolina.

The Huskies finished the 2007 season having produced a 1,000-yard rusher in the previous nine consecutive seasons, starting in 1999, including rushers Thomas Hammock, Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe and Justin Anderson.

Jerry Kill[edit]

Jerry Kill was hired to replace the retiring Joe Novak after the 2007 season. Kill was previously the head coach at Southern Illinois University, an FCS football program, making NIU his first FBS head coaching job. Kill led the Huskies to three straight bowl appearances in his three years as head coach, all three with quarterback Chandler Harnish. In 2010, Kill led the Huskies to the MAC Championship, but NIU fell to Miami (Ohio). On December 5, 2010, the day after NIU’s loss in the MAC Championship, Kill tendered his immediate resignation and accepted the position of head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Coach Kill's resignation would leave harsh feelings in the Huskie locker room, as the players learned of his resignation through email. This left the Huskies without a coach, less than two weeks before they were to appear in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl.

Despite Kill's departure, the Huskies won their bowl game, defeating Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl.

Back-to-back MAC championships[edit]

On December 13, 2010, Dave Doeren was named the new head coach. The Huskies went 11–3 in his first season and they won their first MAC Championship since 1983 in a 23–20 comeback win against Ohio, while also defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves in a come-from-behind game in the 2012 Bowl.

Inclusive of the 2012 season, NIU has won 10 conference and three division titles, appeared in 13 Division I-A and College Division bowl games (winning five), has accumulated 535 wins, and has an all-time winning percentage of .533.[6]

2012 ended up being another memorable season in DeKalb, with the emergence of quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch was replacing Huskie QB Chandler Harnish, the decorated NIU starting QB for the previous three years. There was hope that Lynch would be a good quarterback, but no one could have predicted what Lynch ended up doing in the 2012 campaign. Lynch ended the season passing for 2962 yards, 24 touchdowns with five interceptions. He also ran for 1751 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. The 1751 rushing yards are the most ever by a quarterback in the FBS, surpassing a record set in 2011 by Denard Robinson of the University of Michigan. Lynch's marquee game was on November 14 against Toledo, where Lynch threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 162 yards. Lynch lead the Huskies to an 11–1 record, a No. 21 ranking in the BCS poll and their third consecutive MAC West Divisional Championship. In the MAC Championship Game, NIU defeated No. 17 Kent State Golden Flashes 44–37 score in double overtime. Lynch scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The win eventually propelled the team to No. 15 in the BCS Standings, granting them their first-ever appearance in a BCS bowl game, the 2013 Orange Bowl against Florida State.[7]

The day after the MAC Championship game, Doeren was hired as the new head coach for North Carolina State University.[8] Rod Carey took over and coached the Huskies in the Orange Bowl, but NIU eventually lost 31–10 to the Seminoles.[9] The Orange Bowl was the first of Carey's four bowl losses: Orange Bowl (2013); Poinsettia Bowl (2014 & 2016); and the Boca Raton Bowl (2015).[10]

Following a bitter end to the 2012 campaign, NIU looked to build their momentum in 2013. In front of two sellout crowds, the Huskies increased their NCAA record home win streak to 26 games. Following the conclusion of the regular season, NIU was poised to bust the BCS yet again. They sat 12–0 after cruising through their schedule, and were sitting above an AQ conference champion in the BCS standings. Jordan Lynch became the first Huskie ever to be invited to the Heisman trophy ceremony in New York, finishing 3rd. Following their regular season, heartbreak happened for the Huskies. They lost both their conference championship, as well as their bowl game (Poinsettia Bowl) to finish the season 12–2, leaving Jordan Lynch with a career record of 24–4.[11] 2013 would be the apogee of Rod Carey's stint as Huskie head coach; each season after would find the Huskies losing more games than the season before.[6]

Following the season, 3 Huskies had All-American honors. Jordan Lynch was a first team all purpose AP All American, Jimmie Ward was a first team Sports Illustrated (second team AP), and Tommie Lee Lewis was an honorable mention (AP).[12]

Conference affiliations[edit]

Northern Illinois has been a member of the following conferences.[13]:182


National Championships

Conference championships[edit]

Conference championships won by Northern Illinois as of 2017.[13]:182

Year Conference Coach Record Conf. Record
1938 Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference George Evans 6–1–1 4–0
1944 Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference George Evans 7–0 3–0
1951 Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference George Evans 9–0 6–0
1963 Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Howard Fletcher 10–0 4–0
1964 Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Howard Fletcher 7–2 3–1
1965 Interstate Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Howard Fletcher 9–1 4–0
1983 Mid-American Conference Bill Mallory 10–2 8–1
2011 Mid-American Conference Dave Doeren 11–3 7–1
2012 Mid-American Conference Dave Doeren 12–1 8–0
2014 Mid-American Conference Rod Carey 11–3 7–1

† Denotes co-champions

Division championships

  • 2001 – MAC – West Division Co–Champions
  • 2002 – MAC – West Division Co–Champions
  • 2004 – MAC – West Division Co–Champions
  • 2005 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2010 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2011 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2012 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2013 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2014 – MAC – West Division Champions
  • 2015 – MAC – West Division Champions

Bowl games[edit]

Season Bowl Opponent Result
1983 California Bowl Cal State-Fullerton W 20–13
2004 Silicon Valley Classic Troy State W 34–21
2006 Poinsettia Bowl TCU L 37–7
2008 Independence Bowl Louisiana Tech L 17–10
2009 International Bowl South Florida L 27–3
2010 Humanitarian Bowl Fresno State W 40–17
2011 Bowl Arkansas State W 38–20
2012 Orange Bowl Florida State L 31–10
2013 Poinsettia Bowl Utah State L 21–14
2014 Boca Raton Bowl Marshall L 52–23
2015 Poinsettia Bowl Boise State L 55–7
2017 Quick Lane Bowl Duke L 36–14
Total 12 bowl games 4–8
College Division/Other Bowl Games
Year Bowl Game Result Opponent Score
1965 Mineral Water Bowl L North Dakota 20–37
1963 Mineral Water Bowl W Missouri State 21–14
1962 Mineral Water Bowl L Adams State 20–23
1947 Hoosier Bowl L Evansville 0–20
1946 Turkey Bowl L Evansville 7–19

Historical rivalries[edit]

Ball State Cardinals (Battle for the Bronze Stalk)
Overall Record: NIU 22–20–2

Toledo Rockets
Overall Record: Toledo 29–14

Coaching staff[edit]

  • Rod Carey – Head Coach
  • Kevin Kane – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
  • Mike Uremovich – Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator
  • Jordan Lynch - Assistant Coach/Running Backs
  • Kelton Copeland – Assistant Coach/Wide Receivers
  • Brett Diersen – Assistant Coach/Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator
  • Josh Homolka – Assistant Coach/Safeties
  • Craig Harmon – Assistant Coach/Quarterbacks
  • Melvin Rice – Assistant Coach/Cornerbacks
  • Joe Tripodi – Assistant Coach/Offensive Line
  • Bob Bostad – Assistant Coach/Tight Ends
  • Joe Pawlak – Offensive Graduate Assistant – Offensive Line
  • Nick Brautigam – Defensive Graduate Assistant – Linebackers
  • Colin Duling – Offensive Graduate Assistant – Wide Receivers
  • Adam Siwicki – Defensive Graduate Assistant – Defensive Line
  • Nate McNeal – Asst. Operations/Recruiting
  • Matt Lipman – Asst. Athletic Director/Football Operations
  • Dan Wolfe – Asst. Operations/Video
  • Aaron Christner – Asst. Operations
  • Brad Ohrt – Director of Sports Performance


Future non-conference opponents[edit]

Announced schedules as of October 30, 2017.[15]

2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
at Iowa at Utah at Iowa at Tulsa vs Idaho vs South Florida
vs Eastern Illinois vs Utah at Nebraska at Maryland vs Wyoming vs Vanderbilt at Nebraska
at Nebraska at Florida State at Vanderbilt vs BYU at Wake Forest vs Tulsa
at San Diego State at BYU vs Illinois State vs Maryland


  1. ^ "NIU Athletic Marks Standards Guide" (PDF). July 12, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2016. 
  2. ^ "The Northern Illinois Official Athletic Site – Traditions". Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Dogs and Canine Characters: 31 of 52". Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Huskie Band Home – NIU – Huskie Band". Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Huskies In Heaven". 
  6. ^ a b "Rod Carey Coaching Record - College Football at". College Football at 
  7. ^ McMurphy, Brett (February 12, 2012). "Sources: Northern Illinois to play in Orange Bowl". Retrieved February 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Fred (January 12, 2012). "Doeren to leave Northern Illinois for N.C. State". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Seligman, Andrew (August 15, 2012). "Northern Illinois looks to put Orange Bowl in past, build on BCS". 
  10. ^ "Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois vs Florida State Box Score, January 1, 2013 - College Football at". College Football at 
  11. ^ "2014 Northern Illinois Huskies Schedule and Results - College Football at". College Football at 
  12. ^ "Three Huskies Earn All-America Honors – NIUHUSKIES.COM – The Northern Illinois Official Athletic Site". Niuhuskies.Com. December 17, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "2017 NIU Media Guide" (PDF). Northern Illinois Athletics. Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  14. ^ "The Official Website of Northern Illinois Athletics". 
  15. ^ "Northern Illinois Huskies Football Schedules and Future Schedules". Retrieved April 1, 2017. 

Additional sources[edit]

External links[edit]