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NIU coach Dave Doeren speaks at MAC media day

Final thoughts

Mid-American Conference Media Day is in the books, and I'm about to leave Ford Field and get on I-94. Before I do, here are some final thoughts and a couple of bits and pieces from Tuesday's media day.

— When I got the email from the MAC saying the league and Ford Field had an announcement regarding the annual MAC Championship Game Tuesday morning, I assumed it had to do with some sort of contract extension between the MAC and Ford Field. In news that wasn't shocking, the league and Ford Field announced the MAC title game will remain in Detroit through 2015.

Detroit is a good neutral site. It's centrally-located within the conference and the facility is first-class. Not to mention it's indoors. Yet, I still believe the league would be better off hosting the game at on-campus sites, like it did from 1997-2003. Play it at the stadium of the team with the better record.

For some fans, the drive to Detroit is over five hours. Sometimes, fans aren't sure if their team is even playing in the title game until the week before. It can be hard for a lot of people, even students, to get off work and make plans to attend the game with that short of notice.

If the MAC title game were played at campus sites it would be a sellout, or near-sellout, every year, even if schools that normally don't charge students for tickets did. On TV, thousands of screaming fans looks a lot better than a bunch of empty blue seats.

Conference USA and the PAC-12 have it right, hosting the game on campus. Hopefully we'll see the MAC eventually go that route again.

— When I filled out my MAC preseason poll, it was a tough choice between Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan as the West Division champion. I picked NIU to win, yet it wasn't easy. I'll post my full preseason poll, as well as some thoughts on each team Wednesday.

I do know that there isn't an easy conference schedule for any MAC West team. The three teams I just mentioned will be strong, while Eastern Michigan and Ball State should be improved as well. Even a bottom-feeding Central Michigan team beat NIU and Western Michigan in 2011.

"It's a dogfight," Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. "There's a bunch of good coaches and good players and good teams."

— I picked Ohio to win the MAC East, and it wasn't shocking to see the Bobcats as a unanimous pick to win the division. Ohio garnered all 17 first-place votes.

After last year's heartbreaking loss to NIU in the MAC Championship Game, the Bobcats are dealing with high expectations. The team returns 14 starters, including quarterback Tyler Tettleton.

Tettleton said the Bobcats have unfinished business when it comes to winning a conference title after last year's loss.

"We kind of have a bitter taste in our mouth," he said. "But it's something to kind of motivate us for this year."

— Be sure to pick up the Daily Chronicle or check HuskieWire.com Wednesday and Thursday for more coverage from MAC Media Day.

— Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC on Twitter

NIU open to taking on Penn State players

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said he would be open to recruiting Penn State players if they decide to depart the Nittany Lions.

The NCAA announced sanctions against Penn State Monday, which included allowing players to transfer out of the program without having to sit out a year at a new school. In addition, the NCAA stipulated that schools that take on Penn State players will be able to exceed the 85-scholarship limit.

Doeren said he was sympathetic to coach Bill O'Brien and the rest of the team for being in a tough situation.

While Doeren is leaving open the possibility of getting a Penn State transfer, he said the staff wouldn't "be banging on every door."

"We'll kind of see where it goes," he said. "We are open to recruiting some of their guys if they're open to leaving."

Doeren: Butler "totally fine"physically

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren hasn't met with linebacker Devon Butler face-to-face since Butler was stabbed at an off-campus party over the weekend, but Doeren has talked with butler and said physically, the linebacker is "totally fine." Butler was released from the hospital and was working out Monday.

Butler's Twitter account shows tweets about a party Friday-Saturday at his apartment on the 800 block of Regent Drive. When asked if he would speak to Butler about putting that out on Twitter, Doeren said "There's going to be a lot of things we talk about."

MAC Championship Game to remain at Ford Field through 2015

Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher announced Tuesday that the MAC and Ford Field have agreed to host the MAC Championship Game at the downtown Detroit Stadium through 2015. Ford Field has hosted the annual contest since 2004.

Since the league began hosting the game at Ford Field, the attendance has been subpar. Northern' Illinois win over Ohio last season drew just 13,052 fans. The Huskies' loss to Miami (Ohio) two seasons ago was seen by just 12,031.

Compare those numbers to the last two seasons the game was held at the home of the team with the best record, when the attendance was 24,582 (2002, Marshall) and 24,813 (2003, Bowling Green).

MAC commissioner John Steinbrecher said the league is looking at ways to improve attendance numbers.

"I think it's an issue I continue to talk about with our staff and our member institutions. I don't think there's any doubt that the attendance is driven by the teams within, and what we've got to continue to work on, is building a culture where, as soon as the season begins you're thinking about and building towards, we're heading to Detroit," Steinbrecher said. "It can't be something that pops up in the third week of November, you're going 'oh gosh, we're going to Detroit.' You need to be thinking about it, planning about it now."

Huskies picked second in MAC West

The Mid-American Conference preseason poll is out, and Northern Illinois was picked to finish second in the MAC West. Toledo was picked to win the division, getting seven first-place votes. The Huskies received five first-place votes.

Ohio was a unanimous pick to win the East, garnering all 17 first-place votes. The Bobcats got five votes to win the MAC Championship, while Toledo received three and NIU one.

Here's the full MAC preseason poll —

West Division (1st place votes) Points

1. Toledo (7) 87 2. Northern Illinois (5) 83 3. Western Michigan (4) 79 4. Ball State 42 5. Eastern Michigan 34 6. Central Michigan (1) 32

East Division Points

1. Ohio (17) 119 2. Bowling Green 91 3. Miami (Ohio) 84 4. Kent State 76 5. Buffalo 52 6. Akron 31 7. UMass 23

MAC Championship Game winner: Ohio 5, Toledo 3, Northern Illinois 1, Western Michigan 1. Several voters did not select a MAC Championship Game winner.

Video

For video interviews with defensive end Sean Progar and quarterback Jordan Lynch, click here.

— Steve Nitz, snitz@shawmedia.com, @SNitz_DDC on Twitter

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