© 2022 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Underdogs: The Impact of the Orange Bowl on NIU

NIU may be an easy target to illustrate some frustration with the way the Bowl Championship Series are decided. Larger schools with winning records which have played bigger teams were left out.  NIU plays in the Mid-American Conference, and a MAC team has never made it into a BCS bowl. But a lot of things had to go right for the Huskies to get the nod--and they did.

Orange Bowl Representative Larry Gautier spent last week in DeKalb to let students and school leaders know what to expect and to play down some of the criticism:

“They earned the right to be part of the BCS system. So Orange Bowl is extremely proud to have them down in Miami on January the First. The Huskie nation can be very proud of what they’ve done together.”

Offensive lineman Logan Pegram says he's heard the national news media’s take on NIU. Pegram says there have always been doubters, and that is what pushes his team:

“We are going to like playing the underdog role. That is what we have done our whole careers. Guys at Northern: an inch too short, a second too slow, and that’s kind of what makes up this team so that’s why we will embrace it. We’ll enjoy it.”

Back in the Spotlight

NIU hasn’t always had the chance to shine brightly in the national spotlight. The last time Northern Illinois University was on the national stage was for tragedy after a campus shooting in 2008. NIU is making the headlines this time for a very different reason…a reason the campus wants to celebrate. 

NIU Sophomore business major Richard Moore passes Cole Hall on his way to class. He didn’t make it to all of the home games this year, but he’s still a big fan of the team…and what the bowl means for the university.

Credit Jenna Dooley
NIU Sophomore Huskie fan Richard Moore stands in front of Cole Hall

“With them…the football team…helping get the school recognized on a national level in a good way, it would be good to invest in them.” -NIU Student Richard Moore

NIU Today: Student travel packages sell out, Wait list added

NIU administrators would like to see students at the game. So the university is offering a ticket free to each student for the trip to Miami and absorbing the cost. Travel packages also are being developed to help subsidize the cost for students to get to Florida.

Yahoo Sports: Northern Illinois will give one free Orange Bowl ticket to every student

NIU’s Jordan Lynch has become the unofficial spokesman for the university:

“We are so happy we made it and there’s always going to be people out there trying to criticize us and we just try to focus on the positives.”

President Peters Reflects

NIU President John Peters  is leaving at the end of the school year.  He says the success of the Huskies during his tenure is a good way to go out:

“Not that everyday has been easy. There have been some real lows, which everyone knows about. And there have been incredible highs. You know what it does? It shows something I believe in, that you should have big dreams, particularly at universities, we have such brain power, we have such history. We can do anything with hard work and persistence. That’s the lesson in this. We had persistence with our program.”

Peters doesn’t expect NIU will get a windfall in the bowl payout. Some of the money will go to other MAC teams and some will be spent to go to the Bowl itself.

RRSTAR:A longer wait likely if you want to dress in Huskie Orange Bowl gear

Another challenge for the Huskies is a coaching change. After the conference championship win, head coach Dave Doeren announced he was leaving for North Carolina State…effective immediately. Offensive line coach Rod Carey will lead the Huskies at the Orange Bowl.
“We’re excited about the Orange Bowl, as you can imagine. We are grateful for the opportunity to be there. We will represent the MAC well. We will represent NIU. We’ll represent our families well and our team well.”

Football at NIU hasn’t always been polished. When the Huskies re-joined the MAC in 1997, they finished 0-11that season, one of the worst programs in the nation.

This time, members of the NIU community are hoping they can go from underdogs to top of their breed.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
Related Stories