DeKALB – Northern Illinois football coach Dave Doeren felt Mike Dunbar needed to focus on his battle away from football.
Dunbar, who was beginning his first season as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after arriving in DeKalb in February. At Tuesday’s news conference, Doeren said the original timeline was that everything would be over by the start of the 2012 season.
With the season under way and Dunbar’s illness still present, Doeren, Dunbar, his wife Linda and the coach’s doctors thought it was best for the 35-year coaching veteran to focus solely on his health. Because of privacy reasons, Doeren wouldn’t disclose the type of cancer Dunbar has been diagnosed with.
“Unfortunately the prognosis of it being over at the end of the summer just didn’t come through,” Doeren said. “And so the best thing, we felt like, instead of him focusing his energy and time on helping us win games, was to finish this thing off so he can come back and not have to deal with it anymore.”
Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rod Carey will take over play-calling duties for the Huskies. Carey was Division III Wisconsin-Stout’s offensive coordinator from 2000-06. Tight ends/fullbacks coach Joe Tripodi has been elevated to a full-time assistant coach and will handle recruiting responsibilities.
Carey, quarterbacks coach Bob Cole and running backs coach Mike Uremovich all have experience as offensive coordinators. Carey interviewed for NIU’s offensive coordinator position when Matt Canada left to become the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin after last season. Carey has also known Canada for awhile and the two are close.
On days when Dunbar wasn’t present because of his medical situation, Carey has been in charge of the offense.
Doeren said having Carey calling the plays is the easiest transition for his team.
“His command of what we do is unbelievable. He’s known Matt Canada forever, so those guys are like this. Everything that Matt can say, Rod can finish the sentence,” Doeren said. “So I just felt like because of the timing of this thing with coach Dunbar, that’s the easiest way to go because Rod’s command is by far the best.
Doeren said Carey, Cole and quarterback Jordan Lynch will meet every day to see if Carey and Lynch are on the same page. Doeren added that NIU is fortunate to have three coaches with offensive play-calling experience.
“We’re going to have a great game plan every week,” Doeren said. “We’ve just got to execute it.”