Ten random college sports thoughts:
Thought No. 1: A few weeks into the season and isn’t it amazing how the 2013 Northern Illinois football schedule suddenly toughened up considerably? All summer, local fans and bloggers were speculating about the Huskies running the table with ease en route to the Fiesta Bowl, thanks to what many thought was a weak schedule. Really?
Take last weekend, for example. Bottom-feeder Akron almost upsets Michigan at “The Big House.” Rebuilding (or is it re-rowing?) Western Michigan hangs with nationally ranked Northwestern for 24 minutes. Top 30 Northern Illinois struggles in the first half at Idaho. Enter undefeated in-state FCS rival Eastern Illinois (3-0), looking for an FBS “Boneyard” victory of its own. Do you get the feeling the Huskies are EIU’s or Idaho’s or the Mid-American Conference’s Iowa?
Watch Idaho head coach Paul Petrino’s post-game news conference. You can read the agony on his face about the opportunity his team had against a top-notch Northern Illinois program that went to a BCS bowl and defeated a Big Ten Conference program two weeks prior. Get used to everyone’s best shot, Huskies.
One had to like Rod Carey’s message-to-the-team quote this week. “If you’re not prepared, you can lose to anybody,” the Huskie boss said. “If you’re prepared, you can beat anybody.”
Thought No. 2: Thank goodness my oft-injured retinas survived the buffering, sputtering video streaming and amateur-of-the-week announcers (“Northern Arizona,” come on) on the Idaho-NIU game internet feed (telecast is not the word) Saturday. If this is the future, let me off now.
Thought No. 3: Remember Kent State? Few Baby Boomers can forget. I was a graduating senior at NIU in the spring of 1970. It was a time of unrest nationally and locally, particularly for young people contemplating their future with the military draft and our country’s policies in southeast Asia. During a protest in May 1970, four KSU students were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard. Horrific wasn’t the word.
Fast forward 43 years. Kent State football played at Louisiana State last week. It’s one thing for the Golden Flashes to get drilled in Baton Rouge, 45-13, but, during game week, some genius LSU fraternity hung a bed sheet sign in front of their house that read: “Getting massacred is nothing new to Kent State.” How insensitive.
Yes, the fraternity later apologized. But what are they teaching at LSU?
Thought No. 4: Sports Illustrated printed allegations of recruiting and academic irregularities within the Oklahoma State football program. How in this era of rigid NCAA compliance and ethical conduct, can a major American institution of higher learning condone the cheating at OSU? What type of educators are minding the store at Oklahoma State? And what BCS school is next on the cheat sheet?
Thought No. 5: Speaking of the major-majors, football scheduling has been a frequent topic in this space. With the Big Ten adopting a nine-game conference slate in the near future, the mid-majors are getting squeezed out of the picture – home and away. Reader Mark Eisenstein offered some thought-provoking numbers about the MAC and “Big Five” super-powers.
This fall, the Big Ten has a total of 48 non-conference grid dates (eight on the road and two at neutral sites). In the Big 12, it’s 30 non-league contests in 2013 (six on the road and three neutral). The Pac-12 (37 non-conference, nine road games, and three neutral), Southeastern (56 non-league, eight on the road, and four neutral), and the Atlantic Coast (56 non-conference, 14 on the road, three neutral) ratios aren’t much more friendly to the mid-majors.
By contrast, the Mid-Am 2013 numbers? Fifty-two non-league contests and 31 of those on the road. In 21 of the MAC non-conference home outings, there’s only nine FBS opponents. See any trends here? Makes for an uphill climb for new NIU AD Sean Frazier, don’t you think?
Thought No. 6: Yes, many have griped about this year’s Huskie football schedule with only five home dates and a Sept. 21 home opener (I’m one of them). Just remember that Bill Mallory’s 10-2 Hall of Fame 1983 Northern Illinois MAC and California Bowl champions had four home games that year and an October 8 home opener.
Thought No. 7: Trivia Central: When NIU football was elevated to NCAA University Division (now called FBS) status in 1969, what three other programs joined the major-college ranks with them? Answer: Pacific, San Diego State, and – ta dah – Idaho. Small world.
Thought No. 8: Every week, the Davey O’Brien Quarterback Award disseminates a national “Marquee Match-up” list of elite signal-callers. Maybe it’s the FBS vs. FCS thing, but they sure missed a good one Saturday. Northern Illinois senior Jordan Lynch vs. EIU senior Jimmy Garoppolo. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound Garoppolo rates as an FCS pre-season All-America pick and Walter Payton Award candidate. No one in Panther history has thrown for more TDs in a game (seven last week vs. Illinois State and in front of at least four NFL scouts) or completed more career passes (763) – including Sean Payton or Tony Romo.
Fearless Korcek Prediction: Northern Illinois 49, Eastern Illinois 39.
Thought No. 9: Who’s the most productive 6-foot-2 rebounder in NIU men’s basketball history? Forward Ed Ware who averaged 16.9 boards per game in 1950-51. More impressive is the fact that the only Huskie to average more was 6-10 All-America Jim Bradley (17.8 rpg. in 1972-73). A 1999 inductee into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame, Ware, 84, passed away last week in Hillsboro, Ill. Our condolences to the Ware family.
Thought No. 10: Apologies to analyst Mark Lindo of the IMG / Huskie Radio Network. In my last column, if you recall, I had WBBM-AM’s Jeff Joniak doing the NIU-Central Michigan football broadcast in 2000 solo. Wrong. Senior moment. “Coach” Lindo was there on every down and starts his 28th year on the network in 2013. Nobody prepares for a broadcast better than Lindo.
• 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.