DeKALB – Rod Carey wanted to have some competition at the end of spring practice. He felt like adding some more fun.
So, Northern Illinois’ football coach instituted a new wrinkle this year.
NIU will hold its annual spring game, which is basically a controlled scrimmage at 2:30 p.m. April 13. NIU will stage the first Huskie Bowl a week later.
Spring practice was originally supposed to start this afternoon, but was moved back a week because of the cold weather. The Huskies’ first practice is now scheduled for 3:20 p.m. March 27. Carey originally thought of having the new Huskie Bowl the same day as the spring game, but with practice getting moved back, holding it on a different date ended up working out.
The Huskie Bowl won’t be your basic end-of-spring scrimmage. It’s more of an actual game, with offense, defense and field goals. Offensive line coach Joe Tripodi and linebackers coach Kevin Kane will draft the Cardinal and Black rosters, though Carey joked they weren’t sure if they were going to call one team cardinal or red.
Each staff will take time out of practices to get their game plan together.
Carey took part in something similar when he was a player at Indiana – the Hoosiers had the Cream and Crimson. He said other NIU coaches had participated in something similar, so the staff thought of different things and brought the idea together.
“You guys watch those spring games on ESPN? Are you guys bored ridiculously by those things? They’re terrible,” Carey joked at Tuesday’s pre-spring news conference. “We’re going to have those, those are important to teach the guys the game. Don’t let me minimize those. If you want to have some fun to end spring ball, let’s have some competition. Let’s roll out the ball and play.”
Both teams will share coordinators, as Bob Cole will work with the offense and Jay Niemann the defense. The winning team will get a steak dinner, while the losing team, Carey joked, will get “beans and weenies.”
Carey will have the opportunity to sit back and enjoy everything.
“I’m looking forward to watching the coaches coach, seeing the players play,” he said. “Trying to keep that perspective and not getting too much involved.”
Seniors Jimmie Ward, Akeem Daniels and Matt Krempel all said the transition from Dave Doeren to Carey has been smooth. As Carey puts it, when you’re in charge of a program as successfull as NIU has been, it’s not what you change – it’s what you keep.
There may not be a ton of changes with their new coach, but the Huskie Bowl is something new players certainly seem to be in favor of.
“I think [Huskie Bowl] will be really fun, but at the same time we’re still going to get our work in,” Daniels said. “I think it being new will be positive for us.”
It may not have the same intensity as a Saturday afternoon, but there will be bragging rights on the line.
And a steak dinner.
“I think everybody’s going to come to play,” Ward said. “Football is a competition.”