Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said he knew his "great friend," Tom Matukewicz, yearned to be a head coach.
Matukewicz never made it secret. He led NIU to a Humanitarian Bowl win as interim coach in 2010, calling the experience a "dream." But even with the success, there's a progression coaches must undergo before leading a program.
When Matukewicz told Doeren this week he was accepting the Toledo defensive coordinator job, he cited that progression for jumping to one of the Huskies' chief rivals.
"He chose to make that jump because he wants to call plays and be a head coach," Doeren said. "I can't argue with the fact that he needs to call plays to make that move. But obviously being with our rival makes it tough.
"We talked a lot about it, and I think Toledo is a great program."
Matukewicz, who coached NIU linebackers the past four season, was the last remaining assistant from former coach Jerry Kill's staff. He stayed in DeKalb when Kill left for Minnesota last year.
"As it often does, it came down to the head man," Matukewicz told the Daily Chronicle shortly after Doeren was hired. "It didn't make a bunch of sense to go be a linebacker coach at Minnesota. When I talked to Dave, I really bought into what he was selling."
Despite the strain of taking a job with the enemy, Doeren said the friendship he built with Matukewicz over the past year is strong. Upon leaving, he had nothing but good things to say about his now former assistant.
"He's a great friend of mine. My wife Sara and his wife Lenna have gotten to know each other extremely well, and they're great people," Doeren said. "He'll do really well there, and we'll root for those guys except for when we play them, obviously. He's a good man."
– Ryan Wood, email@example.com, @rwood_DDC on Twitter