Being successful, but not winning anything big is an issue that must be changed for the Northern Illinois Huskies. There was a small spike of success from 2003-2004, but ever since then, our fan base has remained static. Heartbreaking losses and being SO CLOSE to victory so many times makes you salivate for what this team can become. Over the next three years, the schedule is set up nicely where NIU can make an impact and take that next step to wherever it may lead us. To a BCS conference? It worked for Utah, didn't it? The steps:
5. Beat Iowa State and Kansas over the next 3 years
With the Big X still looking for teams to join their conference and create a championship game for' Dallas wonderdome, this is the most simple way to become a viable candidate. We've been there, done that with the ISU Cyclones in the past beating them 24-16 in Dekalb in 2003 and should have beat them again in Ames in 2004.
NIU hits the road to Lawrence, KS in 2011 and the Jayhawks return as the first BCS opponent to come to Dekalb in 2012 since Maryland in 2003.
5A. Win a bowl game over a BCS opponent
Sure, we've done it before, but that was way back in 2004. And it was against Troy. A win over a BCS opponent in a bowl game is the next logical step.
Goals #1-4 after the jump.
4. Win a Soldier Field game
The inaugural Soldier Field game didn't end well in a 3-16 loss to Iowa that would begin a long 2-10 season back in the 2007 season. We were the "home team" for the SF game, but were severely outnumbered by Iowa fans. Former AD Jim Phillips was extremely ahead of the curve with these games. He created a cash cow game at a neutral site, something teams are clamoring for to schedule now in tougher economic times.
We won't be able to match Wisconsin attendance-wise in 2011 or Iowa in 2012, but we had better come a lot closer. Winning next years game would help to keep this revenue-generator alive for seasons to come.
3. Win the MAC in dominating fashion
If you look around the college football landscape, do you see anybody dominating their conference the same way Boise State did since they joined I-A football? They obliterated the WAC winning conference championships from 2002-2009 (excl. Hawaii's run in 2007).
Utah won Mountain West championships in just 1999, 2003, 2004 & 2008 and they are now in the Pac-10 conference! Of course they were completely undefeated in those latter two seasons, but you get the picture. It doesn't take much to catapult a team into the next level. History be damned, recent success is what counts.
2. Beat the Illini
If you were to buy stock in a public D-I school in Illinois, which school would you choose? Honestly, I don't see any downside with choosing NIU a team on the up-and-up. But what the heck is going on in Champaign? Ron Zook is a terrible coach (ask any Gator fan), but a very good recruiter (aside from last year's mess). The program is on life support and they had to allow the Zooker to clean house and hire new offensive and defensive coordinators for a last ditch effort to change things around. So far, Zook has had only one winning season and that was when they went 9-4 and lost in the Rose Bowl against USC.
A win against Illinois this season would probably be the final steak in the heart that is Ron Zook's coaching career. It would also begin to change the tide in terms of recruiting and increasing our fan base. Illinois tends to hide away from NIU teams, so this year is the only chance that we have to make a huge impact in the state.
1. Go BCS Bowling
Longshot here, but undefeated seasons worked out pretty well for Bosie and Utah. And some of that extra cash wouldn't hurt at all.
We were pretty damn close to going undefeated in 2003. One of Phil Steele's power ratings also has the Huskies going undefeated this year.