Welcome to “Korcek’s Corner” no-huddle, spread-formation, season-opening note column. Can there be any better sports news than college football starting this week? First down and contemplate this question.
Northern Illinois media trivia: What veteran NFL radio play-by-play man subbed for Bill Baker on a Huskie Radio Network football broadcast in 2000 and used the broadcast as an audition tape for his current job? Keep reading.
Herby, Herby, Herby, when will you ever learn?Our “favorite” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit did it again last week. In a Q&A interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein, “Herby” received yet another opportunity to justify his unprofessional rant in December about the Huskies’ Orange Bowl berth. Aren’t TV commentators supposed to think (quickly) on their feet, sound articulate, look pretty, and, at the same time, be concise on air?
Anyway, Greenstein asked about Herbstreit’s bowl selection show comments (“NIU was a joke”, etc.), adding “...looking back, did you say that more forcefully than you wanted to?”
“For years I’ve beaten the drum for nonqualifiers,” Herbstreit answered. “I’m all about those opportunities – when they’re warranted. Nobody has more of an appreciation for the [Mid-American Conference] than me. My dad coached at Miami of Ohio at the beginning of (the) ‘Cradle of Coaches.’ I was brainwashed to respect MAC football. But Northern Illinois lost to a very poor Iowa team. If you play in the MAC or Mountain West or Conference USA and you lose a game, you’re on the outside looking in. I didn’t make up the rules; it’s just the way it is. ...”
As someone who beat the same drums for the MAC and all mid-majors for almost four decades, I take umbrage with Herby again. Last December, I do not recall Herbstreit ever saying the BCS system was the joke. The subject of every sentence seemed to be “Northern Illinois” this and that – and not in a positive vein.
But that no longer is the statement that sticks in my craw. It’s this one: “My dad coached at Miami of Ohio at the beginning of (the) ‘Cradle of Coaches.” With all due respect to his father, Jim Herbstreit, who was an assistant coach at Miami in the 1960s (when Joe Novak played for head coach Bo Schembechler) and later coached at Ohio State, this is when MU’s fabled “Cradle of Coaches” originated? I beg to differ.
Miami’s remarkable gridiron coaching tradition started before the 1960s, I’m sorry to report. Earl “Red” Blaik was an assistant in Oxford, Ohio, Weeb Ewbank and Paul Brown played quarterback there in the 1920s. Sid Gillman was MU’s head coach in the mid-1940s. Woody Hayes coached the Redhawks in 1949-50. What about Ara Parseghian and John Pont, whose Miami tenures began in the 1950s? Not much creditability, Kirk. Pretty weak and inaccurate quote for a national college football TV analyst. Am I nit-picking? Don’t think so. If you’re going to talk MAC or anything, then please do your homework.
Ten years after: Where does the time go? A decade has passed since NIU opened the season with triumphs over Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State, won its first seven contests, and exploded onto the national scene. Where are all the full-time 2003 Huskies coaching staff members now?
Coach Joe Novak (retired in North Carolina), offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Canada (OC/QBs coach at North Carolina State), defensive coordinator/secondary coach Scott Shafer (head coach at Syracuse), tight end coach Bill Bleil (offensive line/assistant head coach at Iowa State), defensive interior line coach Greg Bower (special teams coordinator/secondary coach at Minnesota-Duluth), linebacker coach Denny Doornbos (defensive coordinator/defensive line coach at The Citadel), wide receivers coach George McDonald (WRs coach at Syracuse), offensive line coach Sam Pittman (O-line coach at Arkansas), defensive ends coach/recuriting coordinator Mike Sabock (retired in Florida), and running backs coach DeAndre Smith (RBs coach at Syracuse). Truly a great group in more ways than one.
Time is not on your side:So far this summer, the Tribune’s Greenstein has written two stories about Northwestern’s season opener Saturday at California, the late kickoff time (9:30 p.m.), and the effect on NU’s game preparations for Syracuse the next week. Yeah, with the redeye charter, NU probably will get back to Evanston at 7:30 a.m. Sunday and the coaching staff has two sets of videos to break down. Welcome to the jet set. It’s part of the job.
When NIU football played in the Big West Conference, nobody in the Chicago media felt sorry for the Huskies flying in late from UNLV or Nevada-Reno or Pacific or Utah State. Egad, I remember getting off the team buses at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday after flying back from Fresno State in 1991. Yes, even SIDs worked 10 to 12 hours on a Sunday. This NU-Cal redeye trip is a story in the Tribune? Get real.
Nice to meet you: Fox Sports sideline reporter Pam Oliver met ex-NIU/Indianapolis Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish the hard way recently as you’ve surely seen on TV or the internet (Harnish’s errant pass in warm-ups hit Oliver on the side of her face).
Although Oliver was not injured, the incident demonstrated that football sidelines are not for amateurs (the video clearly shows that she and her producer/cameraman were not paying attention). When I watch football games, sometimes I slip back into my SID mode and wonder who all the people on the sidelines are. Obviously, the team, coaching staff, trainers, games management personnel, photographers, cheerleaders all belong, and maybe that’s probably too many.
My other sidelines comment: WBBM-TV sports director Ryan Baker ran the Oliver-Harnish footage last week and remarked inappropriately: “It doesn’t matter, he’s (Harnish) going to get cut anyway. ...” or something to that effect. Wow, I didn’t know Baker was on the Indy coaching staff. Pretty negative comment to me.
Plan ahead:Huskies fans can meet and greet veteran Chicago Tribune sportswriter Fred Mitchell on Sept. 10 in the staff lounge of NIU’s Founders Memorial Library. A Trib staffer since 1974 and an author of numerous sports books, Mitchell will speak on “Life Lessons Learned from Sports.” Among his many beats, Mitchell covered NIU off and on for years – including the 1983 Cal Bowl season and last fall’s Orange Bowl campaign. The 7:30 p.m. event is free and open to the public.
Milestone central: In some ways (and for some of us), that game-opening Mike Pinckney kickoff return touchdown at Long Beach State in 1980 seems like just the other day. That was the first play call for Bill Baker as the new play-by-play voice of NIU football that year. Saturday’s NIU-Iowa game marks the 34th season on the Huskie Radio Network for the Hall of Fame sportscaster. Congratulations, Bill.
Fearless Korcek prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Iowa 33.
Trivia answer: WBBM-AM radio’s and the Bears’ Jeff Joniak – the voice of the Bears since 2001. In the summer of 2000, Joniak called me and asked if he could come out to a Huskies game and make an audition tape. Well, we never got together, but I saved Joniak’s number.
Baker had a schedule conflict with NIU men’s basketball and his replacement had complications from surgery. On 48-hours notice, Joniak did NIU’s 40-6 victory over Central Michigan on Nov. 18, 2000, solo and the rest is history.
• Mike Korcek is a former NIU sports information director. His historical perspective on NIU athletics appears periodically in the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.