Kickers switch leagues

By Jeff Kirik

When NIU joined the Association of Mid-Continent Universities on June 14, four Huskie sports escaped the label of independence.

However, one NIU sport—the soccer program—already belonged to a competitive league in the form of the Big Central Soccer Conference. But rather than seeing the conference switch as a kick in the shins, NIU coach Willy Roy is touting the move as a step in the right direction.

Roy, who will enter his third year of NIU coaching in the fall, says he is excited about the prospect of being in the same conference with Akron, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Eastern Illinois and Cleveland State.

“We’re not happy to leave (the BCSC), but if you have to go some place, this a good conference to go to,” said Roy. “And our team is going to make it a better conference as well.”

The Huskies had no problem finding solid competition in the BCSC. In fact, they lost all six of their regular season games in the league, which features national powerhouses Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Quincy College. NIU did win a game against Cincinnati in the first round of the BCSC post-season tourney, but Quincy ended the Huskie season in a 3-0 second-round contest. The Huskies also defeated SIU, 2-0, in the championship of the Illinois Governor’s Cup, a non-conference matchup.

Although he plans to “push and promote” the BCSC in its last year with the conference, Roy said he is looking forward to NIU’s debut in the AMCU in 1990.

“I was impressed when (AMCU) commissioner (Jerry Ippoliti) said that basketball, soccer and baseball were the conference’s top sports, in that order,” Roy said.

The AMCU’s apparent commitment to having a strong soccer conference and the strength of the programs in the league have made Roy even more optimistic about the possibility of his team’s development into a power.

Akron, which joined the AMCU the same day as NIU, may be the strongest of the eight teams in the league. The Zips reached the NCAA finals in 1986. Cleveland State, an AMCU co-champion last season, is another solid program that “averages about 1,200 fans per home game.” Roy added that league co-champ Eastern Illinois, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Western Illinois are also competitve teams. Valparaiso and Illinois-Chicago round out the AMCU’s soccer field.

The Huskie coach also believes that the balance of the AMCU could make the league a better one for his squad. In reference to the Big Central, he said, “Quincy and Southern were very good, but the rest of us were kind of average.”

Roy said NIU will play several of the BCSC teams each year, in addition to competing in the AMCU.

NIU, which finished the 1988 campaign with a 7-10-1 overall mark, faced two AMCU schools during the season. The Huskies beat Wisconsin-Green Bay, 3-1, (Sept. 9) at Huskie Stadium before beating WIU, 5-0, in the first round of the Governor’s Cup (Oct. 2). Roy’s squad is scheduled to face Wisconsin-Green Bay and Eastern Illinois this season.

“I think it’s a great move,” said Roy. “You’ve got to go with what’s good for the overall athletic program, but this should be good for us. This should be good for everybody.”