By Doug Halberstadt
Success comes with a price. For the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Huskies football team, the cost of winning back-to-back Mid-American Conference (MAC) championships is one head coach. Last Friday night, Nov. 30, Head Coach Dave Doeren guided the Huskies to a 44-37 overtime win over No. 17 Kent State and their second-straight MAC championship.
Less than 15 hours later, he announced he had accepted an offer to become the next head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and he would be leaving NIU effective immediately. He will not coach the Huskies in the Discover Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day against Florida State. Doeren leaves DeKalb with a 23-4 record after two seasons.
NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher said the effort to find Doeren’s replacement was already under way.
“We will move quickly, as we have in the past, to get the right person to lead this program going forward,” Compher said. “We are confident there is a high level of interest in Northern Illinois as the incoming staff will take over one of the best programs in the country.”
The Huskies are the only Football Bowl Subdivision School with 21 wins in their last 22 games. With a school-record 12 consecutive wins, Northern Illinois is tied with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the longest winning streak in the country.
The Huskies own the longest conference winning streak in the nation (17 games) and the longest home winning streak in the nation (21 games). The Huskies will play in their fifth-straight bowl game, and the senior class is the winningest in school history with 41 victories over the last four seasons.
I have no idea how NIU will select their next head coach. I’m not sure if there is a selection committee that is responsible for the hiring or if it is strictly Compher’s call. Regardless of the actual procedure, I’d like to throw out a name for consideration.
I believe former Rockford Boylan Catholic and current Rockford Auburn High School Head Coach Dan Appino would make a great replacement for Doeren. He’s proven his ability to get the most from his players by winning back-to-back state championships at Boylan and turning a struggling program at Auburn around. I think he’d make an excellent recruiter for NIU. He’s earned the respect of his fellow high school coaches and their players in all corners of this state. I think Appino would be a perfect fit in DeKalb.
I don’t know if Appino is currently on NIU’s radar or not. If he’s not, he should be. I sure hope someone brings this to Compher’s attention immediately. At a bare minimum, they should at least bring him in for an interview. I think he’s earned it!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Dec. 5-11, 2012, issue