Football scheduling a top O’Dell priority

By Jeff Kirik

Since new NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell has been on the job, one of his main tasks has been to fill the future Huskie football schedules.

The difference is he’s doing it with a philosophy new to NIU.

“We need to be playing teams that are like us, as far as scope and possibly as far as vision,” O’Dell said. “We need to be playing teams that are (Division) I-A independents like us, which are quite attractive to almost anybody.”

O’Dell named Cincinnati, Akron, Louisiana Tech, Temple, Fresno State, Army and Neveda-Las Vegas among the teams he is negotiating with at the moment or will talk to about future games. He said he is working on filling NIU’s football schedule through 1993, but one of his top priorities is to make sure the ledger is filled through at least 1991.

“We’re going to be bringing in teams that are like us, and sometimes even have a little more national prominence than us,” O’Dell said. “We were playing what I call a potpourri schedule of high-level Division I schools, then some I-AA schools and then some Mid-American Conference schools. I think it’s real important to get to the level to what’s realistic for us.”

The new AD said he wants to get NIU fans used to seeing the Huskies on the field with the other independents, against schools that want the same for their programs.

In addition, the Huskies will continue to play Big Ten schools such as Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota (NIU will play the latter two next season) and will play intrasectional games with other Division I schools. He said there is a good chance that Kansas State could visit NIU within the next few years.

“When they (the community) see the 1988 schedule,” O’Dell said, “it doesn’t reflect (my scheduling philosophy) because those contracts were already there.

“But the ‘89 schedule—when it’s complete—will reflect the I-A independents, other prominent I-A schools that are conference-affiliated and some regional opponents. Regional could be Western Illinois (and) it could be Southern (Illinois).”

O’Dell released a memorandum to the NIU Athletic Board last week which outlined his scheduling criteria. The criteria was as follows:

To schedule seven Division I-A teams to meet NCAA standards.

Of that seven, to schedule three or four opponents which have a high recognition factor for purposes of media interest, fan interest, recruiting appeal, income and increasing the opportunity for postseason play.

Establish a four-to-six year home-and-home schedule with similar Division I-A independents.

To fill in each year’s schedule with regional opponents of high gate appeal, which will increase the opportunity for victories and add to the income base.

To schedule five or six home games each season, schedule no home games after the second week of November and schedule no home Labor Day Weekend games.

To give the university the opportunity to schedule and compete against opponents with as high, or higher, academic standards as NIU, such as the U.S. Military Academy, Big Ten opponents and Big Eight opponents.

Home schedule dates should be considerate of traditional university and community-related promotions such as Business/Agriculture Night, Homecoming Weekend and Parents’ Day.

Schedule one or two intrasectional opponents each year.